Please Leave Me Here, The Art and I Are Bonding

I can tell you one thing that I know for sure. If you have a camera, which translates to, if you have a cellphone, you will take at least three photos of this face…

You will do so from the left, the right and the front and you might even, like me, go beyond that, capturing it in the different light from sunrise to set. You might try four different cameras on it… the professional one (Canon for me), the weird one (GoPro), the happy snap one (Sony CyberShot) and the quick pic (the cellphone).

You see, this face, like the face of a you and a me, is more intricate than you first perceive. It deserves attention. It deserves a closer look.

Crafted by artist and sculptor Lionel Smit, it is the Large Malay Girl Fragment resting on the shoulders of the Ellerman House terrace, the Atlantic Ocean stretching out behind her. She is the most-photographed sculpture in the hotel’s garden and sits quietly observing the goings-on.

She holds the secrets of visitors from near and far, their words and actions, and I’m convinced that you can almost see each story breathing more and more life into her as the years pass. You see it especially in those eyes. Perhaps I’m merely looking too closely or enjoying gin o’clock too freely, but the girl has layers.

Lionel Smit’s work features elsewhere on the estate and similar effects can be detected in both his paintings and sculptures. In this specific piece, it almost looks like the layers were added in the same manner in which paint would be layered to a canvas. As he does in this exquisite artwork in Ellerman House’s  Contemporary Art Gallery

I have heard the debate on the subject of photographing art, but I’m a fan. Being a photographer and not an artist, this is slightly subjective. I understand the shame of taking a photo of something like the Mona Lisa and printing it to hang on my wall, of zooming in and missing the frame completely. It’s a bit like downloading music for free.

But I took the photographs for the sake of sharing them with you, as we do, most of us, to show you just why I found it so difficult to pry myself out of the hallways and galleries of this grand Cape Town home on the hill, in the hope that you will take yourself there to see it all up close too.

Here they are below. For more information, read Art at Ellerman House.

 

The Sacred Heart of Madagascar

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In moments like this, I can never tell whether my heart is beating faster, wilder, its doof doof doof building dizzily, or whether it has stopped. What I do know is that it is not rested in the in-between. And it is not on terra-firma, wherever it is, whatever it’s up to.

Moments like this are the culmination of coming across something never before seen – not by me at least, and not by many – and seeing it with new friends who live in this remote part of Madagascar, three people who have already made their way into my heart. This confused heart. This heart that finds itself in unknown territory, a territory so powerful that reacting in any simple way is just not possible.

You made it more powerful, fellow explorers, leading me to that sacred space in the Lost World of Antafiamohara – past the tall wooden sculptures carved by local hands that call this region of and around Anjajavy in Madagascar home.

Tree life

The faces of those sculptures that stared back at me as we entered the tomb, they have stayed with me too. In deep memory, coming to me not only in my photographs but in my dreams. Them and the lemurs. And that cinnamon roller. Because Anjajavy doesn’t leave you, does it? It joins with you and you forever roam onward together.

How could I not feel a mix or fear and awe, sitting there on the rocks of this hidden cathedral to the dead?

What with the profound respect with which many of the tribes in Madagascar treat their deceased – the sculptures they make to honour and guard the tombs, the coffins they carve to home their lost ones, and the Famadihana (‘turning of the bones’) ceremony.

Antafi 1

Onja

After seven or so years of being buried, the bones of a corpse are dug up and moved to a family tomb, like the one I found myself at during my time at Anjajavy le Lodge. New coffins are made for the bones, which are then left to rest once more – but not before a family reunion with plenty of song and dance. All in the name of giving thanks for the blessings the ancestors have bestowed from the spirit world.

How could I not feel fear and awe?

Fear for the spirits, whether I believed or not, fear for stepping wrong, for saying something out of place, for not showing enough respect. And awe… for the devotion, the dedication, the love of the Malagasy way, for being welcomed and allowed to sit so close to the remnants of men and women who have passed on.

Sacred sites 1

Sacred sites

Doof doof, yes, it was definitely a doof doof. I feel it now. Building again. I feel the power of that tomb and of the union of our little tribe of four, Maître de Maison Cédric, Guide Johnson, Head Waiter Onja and me, beholding something special, together.

That is the purpose of travel, is it not? “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel.”

Yes, I think so.

Thank you, Walter Mitty. And thank you, Madagascar.

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Sacred sites 4

Read more about this sacred tradition in these articles from Lonely Planet and Ancient Origins and visit Anjajavy le Lodge to experience it for yourself.

Romancing the Stone

 

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You haven’t finished exploring the Cape Winelands until you’ve turned up the winding driveway to Delaire Graff Estate. Travellers visit for the cuisine and wine, the vineyards and views over the Stellenbosch Valley, and the lodges and spa. But there’s another side to the Estate’s allure.

Before he started Delaire Graff Estate, owner Laurence Graff founded Graff Diamonds in 1960. Graff is said to have handled more diamonds of notable rarity and beauty than any other jeweller in the world. Situated on this Winelands estate is one of Graff’s own boutiques, the exclusive Graff store – where exquisite collection pieces and iconic stones are on display – including classic diamond line bracelets and solitaire rings, yellow diamond butterfly earrings, pendants and a selection of Graff Luxury Watches, each handmade in London by Graff’s Master Craftsmen.

Delair Graff

The latest discovery from the House of Graff is something else altogether… Called the Graff Venus, it is the world’s largest D Flawless heart shaped diamond weighing 118.78 carats.

Discovered in the Letseng mine of Lesotho, the stone is cut from a 357 carat rough diamond and took 18 months for the elite team of craftsman to complete. It has been expertly tended to, resulting in a brilliant diamond of incomprehensible beauty. “The stone itself is beyond words. It is the most beautiful heart shape diamond I have ever seen,” commented Laurence Graff.

Visit the Estate to find out more and to view the exquisite Graff diamonds for yourself.

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On viewing the 357cts rough through a loupe, Laurence Graff knew instinctively that hidden within its depths lay the potential to create diamond history – it displayed an outstanding size, colour and clarity of the highest standard.
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Using the latest state-of-the-art technology, the team plotted and negotiated the complex structures of the rough, which were mapped to create a precise digital version of the stone. Finally, after many months of planning the diamond was ready to be cut and polished.
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The exceptional size of the heart required the development of special tools and new technologies. The process was incredibly risky and tense.
A heart shape diamond must be perfectly faceted and entirely symmetrical to ensure a perfect silhouette and exquisite scintillation - its shape is a work of art in the hands of the master cutter.
A heart shape diamond must be perfectly faceted and entirely symmetrical to ensure a perfect silhouette and exquisite scintillation – its shape is a work of art in the hands of the master cutter.

venus-and-loupe