Western Cape

In June, Dr Dean Allen author and lecturer, delivered a wonderful lecture to members of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation. The venue was Northwards and the setting perfect for a lecture that matched the period of the room so perfectly. The theme was the subject of this book and the lecture immediately made me want to reach for the book and read more about Matjiesfontein and the man who made the village. Better still a trip to Matjiesfontein to capture the town that has been restored to its pristine condition and enjoy the Victorian era ambience.

Cape Town has always been the most photogenic and dramatic of South African cities. A photograph is worth a thousand words and old photographs have a special historical and visual appeal. Van Graan in this book pays homage to past photographers of Cape Town while also showcasing his own work and that of Philip Massie. The contemporary aerial photographs are by The Aerial Perspective.

I discovered the existence of the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum (located in Lwandle, the nearest township to Somerset West and Gordon's Bay) when enjoying a Christmas seaside vacation. Somerset West is worth exploring with many layers of historical experience from the great wine estates of Vergelegen and Lourensford to the remnants of industrial archaeology to be seen at the old Somerset West African Explosives and Chemical Industries estate, from the scenic drive through Gordon's Bay to the unusual workers museum at Lwandle which is the subject of this book.

I first encountered the work of Nic Coetzer when searching for information about the South African presence at the series of Empire exhibitions held in Britain before the Second World War. I was intrigued by his analysis as to why the South African pavilion, for example at the Wembley Empire Exhibition of 1924/25 and again the Glasgow exhibition of 1938 at Bellahouston Park, should have been designed in Cape Dutch architectural style.

Nita Spilhaus by Peter Elliott, published by Peter Eliott, edited by Glenda Younge, Illustrated, 194 pages. Cape Impressionist painters were a small group of Cape artists who lived and worked in the Cape and were prolific and productive in the early twentieth century. In their outdoor scenic paintings they sought to capture the special light and colours of the magical Cape landscape. The portraits are even more interesting.

Western Provincial an album of Paintings and Drawings of the Western Cape, by Desiree Picton-Seymour and R I B Webster,  1952, Maskew Miller, Cape Town, 36 plates , 80 pages. This book was a collaborative effort by the artist (Picton-Seymour) and the author (Webster). The charm of this slender volume is that it captures in tipped in plates and scraper board drawings some of the architecture of the Western Cape.  It is an artistic and romantic gem.

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