Tuesday 8 December 2009

Sleepy Stellenbosch

On Saturday morning, I went with two lovely ladies, Angela and Sarah, to Stellenbosch. Although only about 40 minutes drive from Cape Town, Stellenbosch feels like it’s on a different planet. Imagine a pretty Dutch town transplanted in the African bush and you’re getting there – but you have to blend it with some colonial architecture and a dash of old world conservatism.

We went to the opening of a retrospective of work by a South African artist called Erik Laubscher. I confess to you my brothers and sisters that I had never heard of him before, but he’s one of the foremost living South African artists. Here’s a clue as to the level of his fame: the exhibition was opened by F. W. De Klerk.

I liked his early slightly-abstracted still lives the best, but all of the work was interesting – and I particularly loved his distinctive colour palette. I also fell in love with the library of the gallery:

It was a very civilised way to pass a Saturday morning: drinking mimosas (great catering! The finger food was a sight to see) and looking at art. The crowd, though, was very different to what I’ve seen in Cape Town galleries. More suits. More beards (a few that reminded me of the Amish farmers’ beards in Witness – do you know what I mean? No moustache, and kind of low down on the jaw.) More Afrikaans spoken. In fact, mostly Afrikaans spoken.

(As an aside, it's interesting to me to note that among other South Africans - white English speakers, black and coloured South Africans - white Afrikaans speakers are spoken of with a certain amount of disdain. Quite a lot of disdain. And usually a curling of the lip and wrinkling of the nose that implies ... I don't know what exactly. At best that they're a bit ... different. At worst, that they're red-neck throwbacks. Not that the latter was in evidence in Saturday. Anyway, just thought I'd throw that anthropological observation into the mix.)

Afterwards we walked around the very quiet town – asleep in the hot summer sun.

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