When you walk through the unpretentious streets of Paternoster, you might feel like you are part of a canvas with a calm sea and white washed houses. But then you meet the artists and creatives on the Art Route, a creative world lures you in to be part of the community.
By Marzahn Botha
Someone once told me that the oldest sea fishing village on the West Coast, Paternoster, doesn’t need people. The sea will always keep on with its ebb and flow, giving and taking.
Fortunately, a place of unique beauty and charm always attracts the artist that likes to be mesmerized by things that inspire.
According to Ben Rootman, chairman of the route was launched last year with seven artists. It has grown to fourteen artists along the way,” says Rootman.
We opened the route on Mandela day. It was our contribution to the artist but also for the visitor. Now the visitor can visit our wonderful town, watch the artists master their craft, do a workshop and to go back home, inspired.”
“Nobody is too grênd in Paternoster, everyone just does their thing,” says Rootman. “This town has so much to offer. You can enjoy all the art and combine it with great food experiences at one of the restaurants in town.”
I found out that the well-demarcated Art Route was designed for the visitor to walk from gallery to gallery at a leisurely pace. The West Coast ticks with tortoise time, so no need to rush.
You don’t have to visit the galleries all in one day. Take your time, look at the art, engage and share with the artists. Then come back for a workshop in their space.
Let’s start at the beginning
Imagine my surprise to see how much the Crayfish Factory at Paternoster Visserye has changed since I last visited Paternoster. Gone are the rustic, dilapidated sight of an industrial crayfish factory. The new “touch of class” restoration gives this facility a feeling of warmth and quality.
The initiative was the brainchild of Paternoster Visserye and is a productive way to help support the community in developing alternative sustainable livelihoods through tourism for all in Paternoster.
It is also essential to manage and preserve the sea life in the area and to educate tourists about the West Coast. By the way, Paternoster was once called St Martins Bay.
With a coffee in my hand, I set off to the “Gallery at Mattat” at the Crayfish Wharf. Mattat is the Hebrew word for “Gift of Life”. It is here where Erika Vermaak, the creator of Mattat, is actively pursuing her passion for leather and the making of leather goods. Erika believes in equipping South Africans with a skill that can build their communities.
Erika moved from Pretoria to Paternoster to open the studio. She creates all kinds of leather products, including accessories, home décor, bags and other leather goods.
“I believe that if you give someone two needles, they can start a business. I want to help people from the community to start their business and find pride in their work,” says Erika.
Mattat’s next-door neighbour is the artist Uro Erichsen with the Uro Erichsen Gallery. He is an abstract painter that has been pursuing his painting for the last 22 years. Uro is a worldly man, who lived in Italy for a few years and also had a guesthouse with his life partner in Philadelphia close to Cape Town. “I focus on contemporary surreal, intuitive art – things that sell well with the overseas market.”
“I love walking on the beach. It is the place where I pick up the energy in the rocks and boulders. I watch the rocks and a figure leaps out,” says Uro. He also has the The Gallery Café where you can sit down and order an artisan burger named after the masters: a Van Gogh’s Burger, a Rembrandt Burger etc.
Food lovers that want to try something else can also visit The Hungry Monk with the Indo-European tapas on the premises. The Whale Rib is another smaller restaurant that serves waffles and pizza during the daytime and is a restaurant at night.
Walking 2.5km through Art
In Bekbaai the marvelous house of Wayne and Sandy Attril awaits you. The creative power couple is both artists, travellers and collectors in own right. Their alluring home in 6 Tolbos Road feels like a collector’s barn that walks out onto the sea. Wayne worked in the film industry in Johannesburg where he collected all kinds of exciting artefacts for set and location shoots. The couple also started the Oystercatcher’s Haven in 2002.
Those sharing a love for Asian and Indian dynasty art and collector items should visit this house. Wayne shapes and turns anything old into something new and eclectic. One of my favourite pieces are the spiral piano keys that he converted into a rotating wooden sculpture. Visitors must make an appointment to visit Wayne and Sandy’s house.
Dream Catcher and Wilko Roon’s galleries are also in Bekbaai but their doors were closed for the day. I found myself way back in middle of town where the Stone Fish Studio and Gallery is situated.
I met up with a friend from Jacobsbay doing a ceramic workshop with the artist Diane Heesom-Green here. Diane, the owner, has been living in Paternoster for more than 18 years.
She transformed the “Ou Stoor” building that dated back to 1863 into a ceramic studio and gallery. Diane plays with the metaphors from the sea, water and the survival of the community in a fishing village. She creates sculptures of the coelacanth or ancient stone fish that depicts the theme of the stone of the building, the resilience of the fishing community and life by the sea. “Changing clay into stone,” is a theme that swims like a fish through the water in her philosophy. “The name of the Stone Fish Studio derived from me creating a fish out of clay, then fire it up to 1200 degrees, and turning it back into stone,” says Diane.
Another friendly face that you will meet at the Stone Fish studio belongs to Linda Tsanga. Linda started at the gallery more than eight years ago. According to Diane, Linda showed a lot of promise and interest in ceramics.
She is now an artist that is well-known for creating clay bowls with playful fish themes, clay hearts and candle feet which resemble human feet. Linda admits that her work “sells like hot cake”.
After a glass of wine, I paid a visit to the Ceramic Works studio where Gaby Dunn, Joanne Hurst and Sandy Atrill, all work and enjoy a creative space together.
“We all do different genres in ceramics and pottery,” says Gaby. “I come from Houtbay and have been creating big decorative pots with my hands and not on a turning table,” says Gaby.
Sandy, is experimenting with old postage stamps of African women’s faces imprinted on them. “My next series will be of Egyptian women’s faces,” says Sandy.
During my last stay in Paternoster, I thoroughly enjoyed the self-catering unit for two at Potters Rest that belongs to Danie Breytenbach and his wife, Pam. Potters Rest consists of two self-catering units on the side. Pam’s ceramic studio is called Pb Ceramics. She makes decorative and functional ware, individually handcrafted for daily use. Her work includes beautiful abstract cheese plates, to a vase of that which resembles a Mandela shirt. Pam uses seagrass, ribbons, lace and anything she can find to create textures in her work.
Besides running Potters Rest, Danie keeps fit by guiding the kayak tours that depart the bay from Crayfish Wharf. During a kayak tour the visitor kayaks around the big boulders to see cormorants, oystercatchers, African Penguins, different species of sunfish, bottlenose and long beaked common dolphins and whales out of the water.
Don’t leave Paternoster without visiting Fleur Hopkins in her Fleur Delyse studio. Fleur imports Murano glass from Venice, making all kinds of beautiful beads. “Murano glass is getting expensive with our current currency rate,” syas Fleur. “I always had an interest in old bottles and started using it. “I make beads by melting the bottled glass with a variable hot flame.” The technique of moving the glass through the different heat settings takes a lot of skills. Fleur recycles old bottles and ancient glass sheds of over 200 years to make her beads. “
By the end of the day, we visited Magda art for an enchanting gin and chocolate tasting combined with art. Magda Van Lille’s son, Francois Joubert, is the creator of Magalies GIn. It is a gin that is made at Incendo Distillery in Hartebeesboortdam. ” My son and I share a passion for plants and the presentation of it.” According to Magda, a wide variety of ingredients went into the three flavours of the different flavoured gins. “I painted the elements for the bottle and my daughter-in-law, Von-Marie, designed the bottle.
Magda loves filling canvasses with florals and botanical studies. When you don’t find her in the house, she is probably in the garden, transforming dull gardens into complementing indigenous gardens.
Tretchikoff on canvass
After a long day, I was soon to be enchanted by the richness and splendor of the Abalone House & Spa, my resting place for the evening. This house with it’s quirky character, extravagant use of colour and styles on big canvasses done by the kitsch master Tretchikoff. The whole experience feels like it is the moment you open an expensive bottle of Shiraz layered with all kinds of spices waiting to surprise you at the right time.
Many visitors like to visit Paternoster and stay in a whitewashed cottage with clean lines and wide-open spaces. This 5-star hotel offers you boutique-style accommodation by the sea. How fitting to end my Art Route trip at this house. Around every corner there are either a book collection to die for, weaver-nest a piece of beautiful, antique furniture, magnificent views over Bekbaai and a lady on canvas wanting withering to make eye contact.