WULF UTIAN’S LETTER FROM CAPE TOWN
PICTURES ARE WORTH 1000 WORDS
William Kentridge, South Africa’s most internationally recognized living artist, has concurrent exhibits running at two of Cape Town’s iconic museums. Incidentally he also has designed a stage set for the Metropolitan Opera’s current season in New York. Kentridge has an absolutely prolific exhibition history, and these exhibits chronologically present his artistic transformation from 1975 to 2019. His sculptures, from small to massive at nearly 4 tons, are at the spectacular Norval Foundation in the Constantia valley, my favorite museum in Cape Town. All other mediums and materials including his flat art and video installations are on display at the architecturally stunning Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) at the Waterfront. The exhibits are big, especially at the MOCAA, and the latter needs more than one visit to fully appreciate.
After the Norval we took the opportunity to visit Kalk Bay and its blend of African and Bohemian stores and people, situated on the False Bay side of Cape Town. An hour wandering from store to store, or stopping at an outdoor coffee shop to watch the passing parade, is a real tonic.
For years we have vacationed for a week over new year as a complete family at the 8 Bells Mountain Inn, on the Oudtshoorn Road between Mossel Bay and the Robertson mountain pass. I have described the place in detail in previous letters. 8 Bells is a throwback, an old-fashioned complete resort with excellent accommodations and everything from tennis to lawn bowls, swimming to hiking, horse riding to squash, and of course to just relaxing in the gardens and enjoying the spectacular views. Much revolves around eating, chatting, laughing, and reminiscing over breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, sun downers and dinner. A week for 7 adults and 2 children in 4 suites, including all meals, drinks, and activities, I am ashamed to tell my overseas readers, cost less than $4000! A few photos are better than words.
After 8 Bells we returned to Knysna with trepidation, this being our first visit this season since selling our home in Belvidere last year. Knysna remains one of the loveliest holiday towns in the world. Any nostalgia for the house was immediately displaced by the magnificence of the recently remodeled St James Hotel. Walking into the main lobby is like entering a luxury Caribbean resort. The suites are large and luxurious, and our views were across the lagoon to the Knysna Heads in the distance.
Unfortunately our first day in Knysna started with a funeral. Our building contractor and long-term maintainer of our Belvidere house passed away far too young. We entered the New Apostolic Church of Knysna to the uplifting and glorious sound of a large choir. The church, set in a Coloured community, has won national awards for the choir of at least 60 members. By the way, for my overseas readers, the term Coloured is proudly borne by South Africans of mixed race. Regrettably, in this complicated country, they feel they were not white enough for the racist white Nationalist Party before 1994, and feel they are not black enough for the corrupt black ANC government since 1994.
The garden route never ceases to surprise us. The highlight of this visit was a restaurant discovered by Brett. Bistro Celeiro, one of the very few family run, private-home top-class restaurants in South Africa, lies on a farm in the Outeniqua Mountains, on the Seven Passes Road between George and Karatara. After driving up a gravel road, the restaurant appears looking like an Italian villa. Welcomed by Susan Agrello, the co-owner and maître d’, we entered what from the inside looks like an ancient French chateau. The small, mostly locally sourced, menu is truly outstanding, with co-owner Julio Agrello being the Chef. Susan and Julio opened a bottle of champagne for us with a swing of a sword cutting off the neck of the bottle.
I should mention that on Brett’s first visit he noticed a display of épée’s, foils and sabers on the wall, discovered that Susan was once a champion fencer, and ran fencing classes in George. He shared the fact that he had been a College fencer at Vassar, and after he described his new STEM center in the impoverished township of Thembalethu, where the offices for all of Brett’s projects are based, she agreed to start a fencing school on the premises. This has now been running for several months, has excited the imagination of many of the youngsters from the area who never in their lives even knew such a sport existed, and Susan now believes that at least a couple of the kids have promise for reaching the national championships in the future. This for us all is a real heartwarming story.
Next month we have a couple of interesting short trips elsewhere in the Western Cape. Until then, let me leave you with a reminder of why Cape Town remains the most beautiful city in the world.
Cape Town, January 16, 2020