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Art at the edge of a continent

Posted in Things We Love

Pierre  Cronje
Chair bench by Pierre Cronje

Both times I visited sofagirl in Cape Town and surrounding areas I was struck, not just by the wild and utter natural beauty or the charm of a city uniquely positioned at the edge of a continent, but also by the local art. 

Cape Town might be as far from what one imagines Africa to be: walking around many parts of town, you could be lulled into thinking the white population is the majority, and there is a sense of refinement, of ease and worldliness not often associated with, for instance, Addis Ababa or Harare. Scratch lightly under the surface and it’s a whole different story and Cape Town is clearly part of a country that is still finding its footing within the framework of a still new democracy.

My African croc
My African croc

But, during my stays, my curious eye was drawn to the stores and galleries brimming with unusual and extremely modern artifacts: anything from paintings, sculptures, pottery or furniture – I would have bought it all. Even the pretty animals that Zimbabwean immigrants make and sell on the side of the road with just wires and beads are immensely more interesting than any of the Chinese crap you could buy at home for the same amount of money. And some of those animals found their way into my suitcase and bring a smile to my face every time my eyes fall on them.

What separates South African art and design from the rest of the world is the coming together and blending of spartan and clean Western European lines with the earthiness and color of Africa. Walk into any restaurant or cafe and you will be struck by how contemporary, but also warm, they all are. The industrial spaces Los Angeles is so fond of, in Cape Town are made more gentle with splashes of pastel colors or local artifacts to remind you that you are, indeed, in Africa.

Elephant vase by Ardmore

The Southern Guild was established by Trevyn and Julia McGowan “as a forum for South African designers to challenge and support each other, unified by national origin, but with diverse views and voices and the collection now has a reputation for innovation, excellence and a truly fresh perspective.

On an annual basis, [they]  invite a selection of the very best local designers, artists, architects and upcoming talents to produce and premier original pieces for the Southern Guild collection that year”.

Conrad Botes
Mermaid cabinet by Conrad Botes

I had a lot of fun perusing the artists they are showcasing this year and here is a collection of my favorite pieces. Much more can be found on the site. And, if you are lucky enough to live in the area or visit, you can see them up close and personal.

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Images courtesy of the Southern Guild – Crocodile image C&S

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  1. That angel just drives me crazy ! It’s fantastic !

    March 21, 2014
  2. Thank you for this great post – introducing me to some new artists to watch out for.
    I too love the art you find in S.A. – mind you the country has a long and distinguished history of fine art, but the new generations have come up with sculptures, paintings and ceramics that are so identifiable as being ‘from Africa’ even though the works are so diverse.
    My daughter was given a jug and a teapot by Ardmore as wedding presents and they are much admired in San Francisco where she now lives. On my bookcase here in Beijing I have two fabulous little sculptures I bought in Cape Town many years ago – just looking at them lifts my spirits.

    March 21, 2014
    • Funny how objects have the power to lift our spirits. In the midst of reorganizing my office, I took in a few objects that have been sitting around for years, and following me on my travels and all the memories each of one held came flooding back. That an inanimate piece of matter can do that is remarkable.

      March 21, 2014

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