Moments of history are forgotten fossilised into the Karoo landscape. Worlds of grandeur lie aging far from Botox, surrounded by preserved fruit and scones. Once vital and relevant, youth becomes biltong. How many decades need to pass before we can look back on times gone by and see clearly without romanticism the why, how and the cost prior circumstances and actions have rolled over to become debt on the present?
Matjiesfontein a day trip drive away from Cape Town encompasses the above sentiment. 250km away from Cape Town equates to removing 150 years from today’s date. A Victorian town lorded over by the Lord Milner hotel surrounded by a bouquet of Victorian amenities, filled with as many taxidermied animals as any heart could desire are trapped / protected by the Klein Karoo.
The immediate landscape is littered with the remnants of war. Rusting biscuit tins are scattered on the landscape, evidence of the soldiers who were stationed here during the Anglo Boer war. The biscuit tins are also evidence of how little interest most people have in that time in South Africa’s history. You would expect that visitors would have collected and sold these tins as historically memorabilia, or that these areas would be closed off to the public, whilst archeologists investigated these sites.
Photo credit: Juju
But thank GWARD! this is not Laingsburg
The biscuit tins are safe and so are the Victorian artefacts and artworks that are haphazardly found everywhere in Matjiesfontein, either in use as if they were current domestic implements purchased from Mr Price ,or covered in dust in a town forgotten.
Photo credit : Kiki
Apparently Matjiesfontein is the most haunted town in South Africa. Haunted by the past no doubt, but comfortably so. It’s more fearfully haunted by the future. I don’t know what would be worse; that it gets discovered and restored with the correct LUX levels and protective barricades and maybe a spa, or that its slips away to become sand.
Panga Management drunk whiskey in Matjiesfontein and conversed with Ben (the barman at the Lairds Arms- he has been working there for close on 10 years) PM asked Ben what his favourite colour was, he said blue – cause he is a Stormers supporter, his house is blue, even his pigeons house is blue (Ben races pigeons). When asked what his favourite contemporary artwork was…. after much consideration he says it’s a blue painting of pigeons flying, and it’s in the Majiesfontein museum (okay, not exactly contemporary with a big C). PM then asked him what art curators look like. He smiles…. it’s only my opinion he says, but I think they look mad. Panga Management did not find fault with that opinion nor could Panga Management find fault when Ben answered that the achievement of art was that it captured what was relevant during the time it was made, like the paintings in the Lord Milner hotel, he said .
Photo credit : Kiki
So it’s clear to Panga Management , contemporary art (with a big C) has more often than not little to no relevance in small towns because it does not reflect what is current to the people of small towns. Even if a contemporary artwork had relevance regards its content, it would more than likely be produced in a visual language that people in small towns would choose not to read. So in conclusion when in the Karoo become a landscape painter and you will always be a relevant artist.