Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Winter In Vincent - Moles Do Not Care About Municipal Property

Winter in South Africa means extreme colors and contrast. Clear, crisp, cold air. It means deep shadows with a sharp outline on the walls. A filmmakers dream.

Winter in South Africa means the moles are digging through your garden from front to back and they are also digging through "municipal property" - meaning the lawn and grass patches outside the houses. Moles do not care about municipal property.  On the grounds of  house No 41 in the Vincent Road stands this giant cactus tree.

This tree is so massive and impressive that in a European country it would be probably moved with great care to a botanical garden right away and decorated with a sign board to explain its reason of existence and origin. But here in Vincent Road it just grows like that, a happy South African plant, that has been there for years.

The winter harvest is ripe.

Is there a better place to warm up after a cold night?

A Love For Pattern

Wood And Iron Houses In Vincent

I have spoken so far very little about the suburb of Vincent in the heart of East London. 
At present there are numerous construction sites in Vincent and business premises and offices with modern glass fronts mushroom all over the place to accommodate local companies. Unfortunately many old building have been torn down over the last four years and the plots were cleaned from all vegetation to allow for construction. I have been observing this process for quite a while and this made me tour the town from time to time, not only the Vincent area to capture especially the colonial wood and iron houses on film.

But there are still some colonial wood and iron houses to be found - like the one in Surrey Road that I am going to introduce to you today. Wood and Iron houses are fascinating architectural buildings found mostly in countries that were once ex British colonies.

When you drive or walk down Surrey Road in Vincent you can see this beautiful charming house with the appearance of a children's doll house.

Corrugated iron dwellings were originally designed to be relatively temporary structures and were therefore ideal as a housing solution for the first pioneers, that came to South Africa and the residents of mining settlements, such as Kimberley and Pilgrim's Rest. Later on these type of buildings were set up in the cities all over South Africa. 
Corrugated iron was first manufactured in London around 1830 when cropped and profiled steel sheets were galvanized producing lightweight, fireproof, corrosion resistant sheets ideal for export to British colonies, like Australia and South Africa, from about 1845. 

Corrugated iron was an excellent, ready-made building material meeting the diverse challenges of affordability, portability, utility and strength. 

According to Gill Vernon, who completed a study of wood and iron cottages in East London, a three-bedroom wood and iron house could be packed in a case weighing two tons, which made transportation of the prefabricated units relatively easy.

Corrugated iron sheets proved to be a first class building material and the houses weathered particularly well. 
By the 1880s larger finished timbers became available resulting in more elaborate structures.

Gill Vernon has identified some features that, with a few minor variations, were common to wood and iron houses. 
The houses were timber framed, clad externally with corrugated iron and internally with tongue and groove panelling of Baltic deal. They were usually built on a fairly substantial foundation, often stone, with sneeze wood posts supporting the wooden floors. 

The wooden floors were often raised above the stone foundations, preventing mould and mildew. Sliding sash windows were popular. In the gabled houses there were large louvre ventilators. 
The front veranda, consisting of timber posts supporting a straight or curved corrugated iron roof, shielded the front door and windows and kept the houses cool. An iron canopy over the windows was also popular. Kitchens originally included a brick chimney or embrasure.

Wood and iron structures were also popular as churches, outbuildings, shops and warehouses.


There are only a few of these buildings still to be found in East London and the surrounding areas. King Williams Town has still a few of them. There are some wood and iron houses in West Bank as well.

I have done a small photographic inventory of these houses for myself because I find them fascinating and beautiful. Often the fear of maintaining such a historical structure keeps people from buying wood and iron houses. As far as I know there is no programme in place to preserve the remaining few houses.

In many of these houses generations of the same family have lived. Once the owners get to old and financial means are lacking they have to sell the house. If this is not possible the deterioration is difficult to stop.

Many of the residential wood and iron buildings have been demolished or plastered over with the windows and front doors having been replaced. But it is essential to preserve the last remaining examples of South Africa's wood and iron buildings for posterity.

The study that Gill Vernon has conducted about the old wood and iron houses in East London has been done in 1984 more than twenty years ago. It would be interesting to research this topic again today.

If somebody is interested in reading more here is the references:
Vernon, G.N. 'A Study of the Wood and Iron Houses of East London, South Africa' in Annals of the Cape Provincial Museums (Human Sciences), Vol. 1, Part 4, 21.12.1984.

Amathole Museum's newsletter© Victor, S. 2009. Imvubu 21: 2, 2. 

Museum Files 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Forgotten Still Life

Wide Open Plains And High Look Out Points

Etosha in the 1970's

My brother Ccideron is most happy when facing wide open plains,

being on high look-out points

or digging up some stuff.

Valley of Desolation, South Africa

 And as it was then
so it is


The country may be different but the scenery is more or less the same!

Saturday, July 28, 2012


 A Poem About Holiness
What you think is the sky,
Is the layer between the universe(god) and you
And sometimes,
In a momemt or two,
but very seldom though

It(he)allows you to see through. 

Then you understand how holy each and every particle
of its entire creation is.

Monday, July 23, 2012

In Deep Jungle I Can See Your Light

In the very shape of things there is more than green growth;
There is the finality of the flower.
It is a world of crowns.

G K Chesterton

Thursday, July 19, 2012

If You Like, You Can Repair My Pantihose

When asked, it is often difficult to say for people why they collect certain things. They just have to have them. I collect a wide variety of things. And I can say, the common denominator amongst most of them is that they come from a time or an era that has become extinct now and that they were used in activities that people do not do anymore. This links directky to the fact that I am absolutely fascinated by handmade things and traditional crafting techniques. When art was daily bread!

Stranded Darning, specially prepared for your fine silk hose! Found in East London in a second hand shop.
I remember hearing my grandmother say, that she was taught as a child by her mother how to mend a pantihose or silk stockings..
That must have been around 1920.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shebeening - Mixed Media Art Painting

Shebeening or a Thousand Rand
Mixed Media Art Painting inspired by the activity of shebeening
Acrylic on canvas.
100 flattened bottle caps equivalent to the sum of approximately 1000 Rand

The word 'Shebeen' derives from Irish sibĂ­n, meaning 'illicit whisky'
The term has spread far from its origins in Ireland, to Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia .

A shebeen was originally an illicit bar or club where alcohol was sold without a licence.
In South Africa and Zimbabwe shebeens are most often located in black townships as an alternative to pubs and bars, where under Apartheid and the Rhodesian era, black Africans could not enter a pub or bar reserved for whites.

Originally, shebeens were operated illegally, selling home brewed beer and home distilled liquor and providing patrons with a place to meet and discuss political and social issues. Often, patrons and owners were arrested by the police, though the shebeens were frequently reopened because of their importance in unifying the community and providing a safe place for discussion. During the apartheid era shebeens became a crucial meeting place for activists, some attracting working class activists and community members, while others attracted lawyers, doctors and musicians.

Shebeens also provided music and dancing, allowing patrons to express themselves culturally, which helped give rise and support the musical genre Kwaito. Currently, shebeens are legal in South Africa and have become an integral part of South African urban culture, serving commercial beers as well as umqombothi, a traditional African beer made from maize and sorghum. Shebeens form an important part of today’s social scene. In contemporary South Africa, they serve a function similar to juke joints for African Americans in the rural south. They represent a sense of community, identity, and belonging.(wikipedia)

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