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Monday, 20th May 2019

In the small towns and metropolitan cities of the Eastern Cape there is an artistic wave riding through the province; in some places it ripples through softly here and there while in other destinations its rolling thunder of creativity is ever-present, ever-roaring, ever-flooding the landscape and ambiance with masterpieces all in forms, mediums, shapes and sizes.

Artists find a home in these ‘dorpies’ and draw their inspiration from the coast to the Karoo, but visitors are equally drawn to these destinations to give their yearning and tired city souls an artistic injection.

Weekend getaways to these small towns gently force you to slow down, breathe in fresh country air, walk, watch, listen, learn and perhaps tap into your own creative side… are you ready to explore the canvas of the Eastern Cape?


 Step outside and stay outside as you explore Route 67 in Port Elizabeth, a collection of 67 public art installations, done by different artists, spread across Nelson Mandela Bay, commemorating the 67 years former president Nelson Mandela fought for the freedom of South Africa. The route starts at the Campanile and takes visitors on an interesting journey through mosaic floors, beaded pieces and murals.

Make your way to Hogsback where Diana Graham created an award-winning eco-shrine for Art and Ecology in 1995 that comprises of oil paintings, sculptures and mosaics where art and nature, science and a sense of the scared come together. There is also a studio that is open to the public where you can view her latest work.

One can’t mention art experiences outside without mentioning the work of Helen Martins, one of South Africa’s foremost outsider artists whose work is in Nieu Bethesda, at what is famously known as the Owl House. Visitors step into Martins’ home and yard of other-worldly concrete pieces where the use of glass is filled with light, colours and emotion, giving a glimpse into the artist’s life and effort to fight off the dark.


Image: Janet Middleton


 Bathurst is home to more than just pineapples, the small town has a surprisingly large number of artists, and one of them is Richard Pullen; his studio is a show piece of South African “earth” art, combining beauty and functionality, one as unique as the other. So next time you stop for the big pineapple, why not also visit Pullen’s working studio?

Ware on Earth Ceramic Gallery and Studio showcases the work of potter, Marin Haines, and his wife, ceramicist Charmain Haines, in the small town of Nieu Bethesda but their work are often displayed across South Africa as well as internationally. From figurative clay to pottery plates and platters, this one is definitely worth a visit during your next Nieu Bethesda trip.

At the Clay Café in Rhodes visitors can try their own hand at pottery and make something unique before it heads to the on-site kiln. It is also here where Irene Walkers makes agateware - a decorative ware made from partially blended dark and light clays that creates a beautiful pattern of decorative colour banding; it is common to find agates in the surrounding hills of Rhodes Village.


Image: Richard Pullen Studio


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 If you find yourself along the Sunshine Coast, make a stop in Alexandria at Maureen Quin’s studio, Quin Sculpture Garden, where there is a collection of more than 100 pieces – bronze sculptures, drawings and paintings. It is said that her keen observational powers and deep responses to the environment enable her to capture the essence of her subject.

Well-known sculptor, Frans Boekkooi, works from an old Blacksmith Studio next to the Brewery of Nieu Bethesda where visitors can have a peek while he is busy with his latest project. His work is in collections in the UK, US, China, Holland and Australia, as well as the Presidents Collection.


Image: Quin Sculpture Garden


The Corner Gallery in Bathurst is a retail outlet for Stowe & so, art work by Tori Stowe.  Stowe originally trained as a fine artist and since 2007 she’s been creating handmade homeware such as ceramic palate, hand-printed fabrics, drawings and paintings from Bathurst.

Somerset East might be known as an ideal fly-fishing destination but did you know that it is also home to the Walter Battiss Art Musem? Batiss was born in Somerset East in 1906 and the museum opened in 1981 when he donated 65 of his private collection of artworks to the people of Somerst East. Today the gallery forms part of the Somerset East museum and has a permanent exhibition of Battiss’ work which includes watercolours, oils, rock art and Fook Island.

Graaff-Reinet is home to its fair share of galleries and museums. You can visit the Hester Rupert Art Museum for  twentieth-century South African Art, there is a total of 126 works by 106 artists while the Jan Rupert Centre has an exhibition “Jean Lurcat - French Tapestries” and the Imibala Gallery, next to the Drostdy Hotel provides a visual platform for contemporary South African (and international) artists to showcase their work.

The Ann Bryant Gallery, situated in East London, functions as a National Monument and Art Gallery which houses a Victorian and South African art collection; the gallery hopes to increase cultural diversity as well as artistic awareness through visual arts.

If you move towards Tsitsikamma’s side the Storms River Arts & Crafts Meander boasts numerous local galleries and shops. There is the colourful Storms River Arts & Craft Centre with African art and keepsakes while Tsitsikamma Crafts & Clothes have hand-embroided items made from shweshwe fabric and in the Bitou Art Gallery you’ll find ceramics, photography and oil, watercolour and acrylic art.

There is art all over the Eatern Cape, from the small towns with the dusty streets to the bigger metropolitans cities like Port Elizabeth where you can visit the temporary exhibitions at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum. You can also go to the community art centre, artEC, which holds open exhibitions and showcases local talent, and the GFI Art Gallery is all about promoting the appreciation of art in the Bay through its exhibitions, they also hold a collection Ron Belling’s period aviation paintings.


Image: My Karoo Life



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