Tuesday, October 16, 2007

South Africa: The Owlhouse and Brewery

For this entry, the pictures pretty much speak for themselves. Kathleen really wanted to visit the Owl House in Nieu Betheseda, a tiny town off a dirt road in the Eastern Karoo, a semidesert area of incredibly natural stark beauty.

However she feared that convincing Eric to drive some 12 hours total out of their way to see an arty house designed by a potentially crazy older lady in the 1940s might be a bit of an uphill battle. Until she read that South Africa´s smallest microbrewery was down the street from the Owl House. Hallelujah!

As it turned out, Eric loved the Owl House as much as Kathleen, and we ate lunch AND dinner at the Two Goats Deli and Sneeuberg Brewery (and would have had breakfast there, too, if they would have let us.)

The Owl House was the labor of love of Helen Martins, who had grown up in the area and returned to it in her 30s to take care of her sick father (whom she didn´t get along with). Following his death, some failed relationships, and her own illness, Helen decided that she wanted to bring more light into her life. So at the age of 48, she began a 30-year transformation of her home into an oasis of color and light. She turned her garden into a statuary of mosaics and other creations. She takes her themes from various religions, fantasy, and her own personal life. The whole affect is beautiful, fascinating, and, at times, eerie. She used cement, colored glass (in mosaic, crushed, and bottle form), and her imagination to create a wonderland to her own liking. In the end, nearing her 80s and partially blind, she took her own life. But not before people discovered her gifts and celebrated her vision as Outsider Art. While she was considered a kook when she was living, now people are drawn to this tiny community to view her work. And many artists have taken up residence in the sleepy, sun-baked town.

And a brewer! Andre at the Sneeuberg Brewery crafts delicious ales that he lets you pull yourself right from the keg-erator. And he also makes his own cheese that he serves up with home baked bread and kudu salami. Deeeeeeelish!

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