Blown Away

Text: Suzy Bell

blown away_Suzy Bell

Motorists driving along the R44 on Clarence Drive outside Rooi-Els have been amused and confused by a mysterious series of 41 solo dancing pink fishing nets enjoying a light Cape summer’s breeze on the slopes of the Klein Hangklip Berge.

“Some motorists who stopped thought it was a strange type of flower,” laughs artist Liza Grobler, who came up with the original concept of her site-specific installations and project titled, Mooi uitsig to Mooiuitsig: An Artventure. “Since the region is renowned for the bio-diversity and wide variety of fynbos, this was a lovely response.”

Grobler relished the idea of taking part in the first HAWK (Hangklip Art Week) held in the Hangklip region of Rooi-Els, Pringle and Betty’s Bay curated by prolific artist Lien Botha who has participated in over 80 SA group exhibitions, 40 international group exhibitions and has held nine solo exhibitions. Botha’s work is represented in pivotal collections throughout South Africa and in key private collections locally and abroad. “Lien Botha came up with the concept of HAWK, she co-ordinated everything, what a challenge. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from visitors and locals and some corporate interest indicate that this will definitely become an annual event,” says Grobler.

“What makes Hawk particularly significant is the fact that it is collaboration between two creative zones, one urban (Cape Town) and one rural (the Hangklip region). The latter being situated just over one hours’ drive from Cape Town within a UNESCO registered biosphere which is home to the most complex biodiversity on our planet and stretching between the Indian Ocean and the Kogelberg mountain range,” explains Botha.
The idea of Hawk took root in early January 2011, when a group of artists and art aficionados gathered at the collector Grizelda Hall’s Rooi-Els home for lunch. “Subsequently the idea gradually evolved in line with similar trends which have become increasingly popular worldwide, such as open Ateliers in Belgium, Ridderkerk in the Netherlands and for instance the Baardskeerdersbos art route near Gansbaai,” says Botha. “Workshops, discussions and pop-up restaurant suppers form part of HAWK. The Harold Porter Botanical Gardens are being used for sculptures and installations and regional artist’s studios. The collaborative drive-by artventure, Mooi uitsig to Mooiuitsig by Liza Grobler, acts as a thread, linking all the events.”

Grobler, who together with Jonathan Garnham co-founded the fantastic art gallery, Blank Projects in Woodstock (a space celebrated as a key project space for investigational art by African and international artists), is known for her imaginative site-specific interventions in South Africa and abroad, and for she having to date enjoyed eight acclaimed solo exhibitions. “My site-specific interventions punctuate the landscape and attempted to draw motorists’ attention to the vastness of the natural surroundings and also to instigate interaction with various locals. A local called Anthony James sells braai wood 300metres further down from my pink fishing net installation on the opposite side of the road. I painted some of his wood a day-glow pink with eyes. The idea was motorists would slow down after seeing the pink nets and stop at Anthony’s to buy his wood or buy the pink wood for R2 a piece (double the price of the unpainted wood). I had originally during my research of this area bumped into Anthony at various local pubs, and he became totally involved in the whole event, discussing the interaction and reactions of various people and rearranging the pink wood piles daily.”

The pink fishing net installation is on the road between Rooi-Els and Pringle Bay. “The fishing nets were like little outer space beings in keeping with this alien on the other side of the road. Within this vast landscape the little nets are miniscule and hardly likely to catch anything at all! The absurdity of our attempts is perhaps underlined not by what we do, but by the context within which we worked, hence the tongue-in-cheek, somewhat ironic line we came up with which was ‘Fishing for compliments’.”

Botha expresses that she chose the area of Hangklip as this region is rich with history and stoepstories (tales). “Evidence from the early San and Khoekhoe, dating back 100 000 years BP with middens and rock traps still visible in the area. During the 1600’s the VOC traded with the Chainogua for sheep and cattle in the region. Hangklip would not be the same without its own shipwreck tales of stormy seas and high winds such as the two Dutch ships De Grendel and Ternate which came to an end off Cape Hangklip in 1673 and 1680.”

Artists for HAWK were invited by Botha and Grizelda Hall. They selected 12 local artists (who have national and international acclaim), and 12 artists from Cape Town. “The idea was to create a dialogue between the rural and city based artists. I was invited to create ‘a thread that runs through the whole project’, an intervention that could ‘join the dots’,” explains Grobler. “I made 99 pink arrows that marked the route and pointed out random things in the landscape from views, plants and interesting spaces and I also indicated alternative stops. The HAWK route (in blue) and my pink route runs parallel to each other, it overlapped at times, but my route sometimes took little detours on gravel roads. Swain Hoogervorst assisted me with the installation and I am eternally grateful for all his help from production to inception,” says Grobler.

The artists spent a great deal of time meeting and discussing the project with locals. The highlight was the workshop which Hannah Paton conducted with the Penguin Kidz which Swain and Grobler assisted. Hannah’s, My Droom vir Mooiuitsig (My Dream for Mooiuitsig) appealed to children (aged 2-6) asked to ‘build a bed’ (collage) and make drawings of their dreams. “Hannah photographed the children asleep and we installed the life-sized prints on the floor of the school together with an audio clip of the children singing lullabies. The collages were displayed around the windows,” says Grobler.
Paton is an award-winning artist who works primarily with photography as a medium. Her unusual implementation of photography as multi-sensory experience, and has led to her involvement in various interactive and mixed-media projects with a strong social underpinning.
The community has responded most warmly to the photographs and Paton has invited them to write their own dreams and aspirations on small pieces of pink paper which are then installed on the front wall of the school. “Some people visit numerous times. The children are constantly visiting and interacting with us and Hannah, and the wonderful teacher Zaan Cilliers spend days discussing the school and the project with visitors. In this way, many people became aware of this incredible haven and the wonderful work that is done here,” says Grobler.

• HANGLIP ART WEEK (HAWK) is set to be an annual art event that takes place in the Hangklip region of Rooi-Els, Pringle and Betty’s Bay. Some of the artists participating in the first Hawk event include: Helmut Starcke, Nomthunzi Mashalaba, Brendhan Dickerson, Petra Keinhorst, Lien Botha, Anton Karstel, Evette Weyers, Peter Clarke, Liza Grobler, Colbert Mashile, Cobus van Bosch, Willie Bester, John Kramer, Clementina van der Walt and the Qubeka beadwork studio.