One of South Africa’s leading art blacksmiths, Conrad Hicks’ new range of his hand forged frying pans and roasting pans are beautiful to use as they are to have and see. They are a superb investment – lasting years, unlike the usual ones you buy in shops.
The frying pans, starting at R1 000 are non stick – thanks to the use of beeswax which needs re-applying every six months if you use it daily (which we do in our household, to fry eggs!).
Some of you will have visited Conrad in his amazing and large workshop – in the Bijou, a former Art Deco cinema, in Cape Town’s Observatory. It is has been part of Culture Connect’s public and private tours. His ironwork can be seen at the Jewish Cemetery in Pinelands (gate), Ellerman House in Bantry Bay (exterior spiral stair case) and the Guild top end design shop in the Silo District, near Zeitz MOCAA.
To buy visit his special website – Toolroom online and please let me know (or put Culture Connect in the address boxes) – it will go towards me getting one of his superb pans.
He ships internationally.
Flapper girls, fire-stations and the fantasy world of Hollywood – Art Deco was everywhere and still is. You’ll find stunning Art Deco in Prince Albert, a Karoo “dorpie” (small town) to skyscrapers in African metropolises. Afterall, Art Deco design was infinitely adaptable, giving free reign to the imagination, celebrating fantasies, fears and desires. Art Deco’s hay day was between 1925 and 1940, even though the term was coined only in 1966 and it arrived later in Africa than Europe, UK and States.
Like its forerunner Art Nouveau, Art Deco was eclectic and drew on many sources. It borrowed from European historic styles which lent itself well to South Africa whose architecture was eclectic, derivative and hybrid pre 1930s. Art Deco flourished amid an existing Beaux-Arts classicism (see St George’s Mall, Cape Town images below) and the emerging, radical International Modern style. It gave a “cloak of modernist form concealing a traditional structure and layout”, to quote heritage architect and consultant Dr André van Graan (pictured), Cape Town’s Art Deco expert. Its geometric play of forms and other detailing actually helped Modernism to be accepted here after WWII.
Merensky Library, Pretoria
Hybrid, St George’s Mall
Beaux-Arts (St George’s Mall)
Dr van Graan
Shell House, Greenmarket Sq
Market House, Greenmarket Sq
Art Deco motifs were “Africanised”. Sometimes this is subtle and open to conjecture. The zigzag some say harks back to the chevron patterns on the ruins of the African Iron Age city, Great Zimbabwe (see image of Gerard Moerdyk’s Merensky Library, 1933). South Africa’s national flower, the King Protea lent itself to geometic forms perfect for facades – entablatures and between arches (spandrels). Both the zizgag and protea can be seen on Cape Town’s Commercial Union offices (now Market House) in Greenmarket Sq by William (Billy) H Grant,1932. See images. When this building opened a local journalist at the time wrote “Modernism in design almost “in excelsis” has come to Cape Town”. Baboons, elephants and even tribal figures are integral to Old Mutual Building’s facade (see images). It was inaugurated in 1940 and designed by two local architectural practices – Fred Glennie and Louw and Louw. A local material, Paarl granite, clads the whole building added to a sense of a national, rooted Art Deco.
Mutual’s main facade
African figures, Darling St
Spot the elephant heads
While the likes of Billy Grant (1877 – 1957) had to use magazines and catalogues for his Art Deco inspiration and references, Old Mutual paid for Fred Glennie and the Louws to go on a study trip to Europe and the States. No surprises that the Old Mutual Building looks like a smaller version of Empire State Building, designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, built 1930 – 1931. Old Mutual wanted their new headquarters to impress and it still does, even the detailing (eg banisters, light fittings and etched images by the lifts). Going inside gives the feeling of stepping back in time to a bygone era. I get this too at the small Art Deco optometrist, Mullers, opposite. It was designed by Frank Spears (1906 – 1991) when he worked at shopfitters Brimble & Briggs (no relation to me, btw). While Old Mutual Building is now an apartment block renamed Mutual Heights, re-purposed like most other Art Deco buildings here, Mullers is still an optometrist and in fact where I go for my annual eye test.
Entrance, Longmarket St
Mullers, Parliament St
Moving onto other city centres in South Africa, Johannesburg’s city centre has apparently the world’s third largest number of large Art Deco buildings, after (no less) New York and Miami. Near to Johannesburg, the small town of Springs has 34 small Art Deco buildings (Dr André van Graan did the survey), second only to Miami. Some call Durban South Africa’s Art Deco capital. It has an active Art Deco Society. Cape Town’s hosted the Art Deco World Congress in 2005. It no longer exists – all the more reason for us to read, write and engage with it. Sadly, but understandably, many owners rip out Art Deco features. I was speechless when a history teacher told me he did so for his Market House flat so it would do well on Airbnb, which it did!
Mullers; NB sunray windows
Old Mutual, Vestibule
Provincial Gov, W Cape
There is the informative and active Facebook page, Art Deco Architecture in Cape Town. The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation ran a series of Art Deco lectures during ‘hard’ lockdown mid 2020 on Art Deco. Dr André van Graan gave a brilliant ‘virtual tour’ of Cape Town’s Art Deco heritage. I’m glad he’ll be doing a similar one for the UCT Summer School, 14 Jan 2021. I’d better organise soon another of his tours, especially after the success of the recent one on 11 Nov (images above). We finished with supper at Gorgeous George – I couldn’t resist the birds’ eye view from its roof top restaurant overlooking some of Cape Town’s majestic commercial buildings of old we had seen at street level (eg The Shell offices, now Onomo Hotel, Greenmarket Sq – pictured). Do let me know if you would like your own tour, or would like to comment on the above. It would be great, as ever, to hear from you.
Kate, firstname.lastname@example.org or call/WhatsApp +27 (0)72 377 8014
Sources of info and recommended reading:
Art Deco 1910 – 1939 edited by Charlotte & Tim Benton and Ghislaine Wood, V&A (R729 from Takealot)
Dr André van Graan’s PhD Negotiating modernism in Cape Town: 1918-1948
Prof Federico Freschi Big Business Beautility: The Old Mutual Building and The Business of Belonging: Volkskapitalisme (I have digital copies if you need them)
Cape Town in the twentieth century, by Vivian Bickford Smith, Elizabeth van Heyningen and Nigel Worden (out of print R480 from Quagga Books); Frank Spears: The Painter by Melissa Sutherland; The Early Architects of Cape Town by Michael Walker, www.artefacts.co.za, www.theheritageportal.co.za, Pinterest
I also have a briefing on South African Art Deco I would be delighted to email you.
Ross Rayners (and I) are currently working on short video of André’s recent tour.
A really special opportunity to visit artists in situ, in a really small group (five max).
Start at the beautifully recently converted Labotessa hotel in the corner of Church Square, with coffee and a quick visit to their penthouse suite with its stunning views and contemporary art, including by Pierre Fouché (see below). Then we’ll visit Pierre in his studio – two minutes walk away. Before going to Union House, again a few minutes walk to meet fine art mosaicists, beaders and educators at Spier Art Trust.
R400 each pre 18 Nov, then R500. Optional lunch at Haldane Martin’s beautifully “French” designed, Swan Cafe (last image), for the best gallates/crepe in town, Corner Buitenkant and Barrack St, Zonnebloem, Cape Town, 8001
An evening with exhibiting artists whose media includes print, painting, ceramics, papier-mâché and even plants – Kate Carlyle, Kallie Doran, Amelia Jakobs, Sue Kingma, Clare Menck, Igna Schwartz, Jenee Rosse and Judy Woodborne (see list below). Haas CEO, Francois Irvine, will be creating what he calls Babette’s feast style table with a variety of traditional and not so conventional offerings (see menu below). Delicious Grenache Rose and unwooded Chardonnay from Vriesenhof Vineyards.
Haas is a large “hip space with Victorian flair” (top-rated.online) on the viby, East side of Cape Town, near the A4 Foundation, District 6 Museum and Fugard Theatre. Being a big space there is plenty of room for social distancing and good ventilation. All staff wear masks and wipe down surfaces as soon as they clear. Please remember your mask and cancel if you are ill (a full refund will be given).
This exhibition is not on for long and will be a great place to spoil yourself and buy Christmas presents – from one off jewellery to textile art – all lovingly designed and made in Africa (mostly Cape Town).
It will be a really special celebration – a visual and culinary treat; the artists are excited.
6pm for 6:30pm until just after 9pm but do slip away (or arrive) at a time to suit you.
Cost: R650 payable in advance.
Book soon as limited numbers. Only those who have booked and paid in advance will be able to come; it is afterall a First Thursday in Cape Town now back in action with Covid19 protocols in place.
Haas Collective, 19 Buitenkant St, District 6, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8001
Starters served on platters while we look at the art and chat to the creatives
Bobotie cups, sweet and sour corn parcels, Arancini parmesan balls, seared tuna and watermelon skewers
Mini bruschetta with a trio of toppings – olive tapenade, sun-dried tomato pesto, caramelised onion and feta
Guests will be seated and treated to an amuse-bouche, then for mains we’ll be encouraged to try a selection of eats, some served plated, others placed on table for self service:
BBQ chicken skewers
Creamy cheese potato bake
Caramelised baby carrots
Beef peppers in a light lemony sauce
Almond and fennel rice
Salmon trout truffles
Ottolenghi style char grilled cauliflower
Steamed green vegies with toasted seeds
Chargrilled seasonal vegetables
Fresh salad of greens, asparagus, feta truffles and rosa tomatoes
NB no pork or shellfish will be used; meat is strictly halal
Dessert will be served as small bite sized morsels to encourage us to circulate and enjoy more art:
Malva pudding with clotted cream
Traditional milk tart
Vanilla cheese cakes with a berry compote
Chocolate chilli truffles
Fruit skewers with a honey/lime dressing
Plenty is gluten free and vegan but please let us know in advance dietary requirements
Judy Woodborne (paintings and works on paper)
Clare Menck (paintings and works on paper)
Jenee Rosse (paper mache & works on paper)
Kate Carlyle (soft furnishings, jewellery, bags)
Kallie Doran (jewellery)
Chris Koch (mixed media)
Igna Schwartz (soft sculptures, textile works)
Lella Kondalykis (ceramics)
Amelia Jakobs (ceramics)
Design Afrika (woven baskets)
Nuno Indoor Plants
Escape for a day of enjoyment, exploring and education, with the passionate and brilliant Roushanna Gray of Sea & Veld. She is creating a special event for us – tracking the edible landscape and a healthy feast with botanical bubbly, in her beautiful glasshouse hidden away in a nursery. R1 200pp early bird payment pre Nov, then R1 600. Children under 12, half price.
Numbers strictly limited. Please wear a mask. Covid19 protocols eg form and temperature. Please cancel if you are unwell and we’ll refund you.
Address: Sea & Veld, Good Hope Gardens Nursery, 7976 Plateau Rd, Cape Peninsula, Cape Town, 7976