Monday, April 27, 2009

West Coast Icons

These little boats, donkey's years old, rest at the entrance of Strandlopertjie in Langebaan. This is a very popular lunch venue where guests sit on large round boulders or underneath a shelter. They help themselves to lots of seafood, homebaked bread, homemade preserves ..... Informal to the extreme.
We are West Coast people and boats have iconic status. Throughout my West Coast Chronicles I will show many different types of boats. These two are probably the oldest I have seen, with not a speck of paint left on them. I will also paint the humble brightly painted fishing boats at Paternoster, the cheeky motorised fishing vessels of Yzerfontein, the peaceful sailing boats at Langebaan and the glamourous yachts alongside them. We will look at the cute tugboats of Saldanha which look like something out of Noddy. At Laaiplek we will find large fishing trawlers and then I will paint the diamond barges at Lambert's Bay. Then there may always be surprises waiting on the beach, like a boat displaced by a storm.... I hope there will be many boats I can paint along the coast!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

An Yzerfontein Landmark

We are in Yzerfontein and have been admiring this well-known restaurant and guest house called Kaijaiki, which means 'small dwelling'. It was designed and built by the owners only twelve years ago. This is an example of how a sensitive design shows respect for the past and for the West Coast region. It helps us not to lose the old-world charm in a world where the older styles are discarded at too fast a pace. A building like this links with the vernacular to form a gentle passage between the old and the new.

People who has visited this blogsite will notice a new painting, as I have decided to show less roof area and get much closer. Here is that wonderful dark colour for wood called 'heritage green'. If you visit the historic buildings of the Cape the colour can be seen everywhere around windows and on wooden doors.

Once through the entrance you will experience the golden glow inside with it's lovingly collected cottage antiques that spell out that tried and tested saying: West Coast hospitality. Inside the dining area a real log fire takes you away from the stress of the city. Feast your eyes on objects from long ago, which even include Grandmother's sewing machine and her framed handmade bloomers.

And then, of course, you will meet your hosts, probably make friends for life, be offered the menu and an evening of relaxation can begin!

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Rare Gem (in the mist)

On a misty election morning in Yzerfontein, I expressed the need to find something that is man- made, but quaint and in the West Coast spirit in this town that has every gift Nature can offer in abundance, but has only modern homes. Our friend led us to this lovely cottage. The thatch roof and indigenous plants hug the building and make it look cosy and protected. The ridge on the roof is made by the proper chicken wire and cement method. Together with the always-present rocks of Yzerfontein, it frames a view of Meeurots. This will probably become one of my favourite spots from now on, and maybe I can take my artist friends there to paint, as to the left there is a one-third scale replica of a lime kiln, more rocks and more beautiful views.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yzerfontein Vignette

From the highway, you go down to Yzerfontein waterfront, down, down, past the lime kilns (registered National Monuments), past the small CBD and the large 70's era houses. And there it is: one of the most beautiful stretches of water on the coast! The beach meanders on and on for many kilometers in both directions. Should you decide to walk this coastline from the harbour in the direction of Cape Town, you will see millions of birds, beaches with rocks for anglers, waves for surfers and a feast for the eyes for all. In the ocean you will notice the pretty guano encrusted little mound, aptly called Meeurots (Gull Rock), where seagulls and cormorants dry their wings after fishing. There is also a very close view of Dassen-eiland where penguins live and breed.

In this view we look back at the town. Man-made breakwater rocks are added to the large natural rocks to build a safe landing passage for returning fishing boats. Alert gulls on their cluster of rocks keep an eye on the returning yield and form a frame for the scene behind them, a composition that helped me to overcome the awkward square form of the canvas.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Smoorsnoek prepared in a cottage kitchen

Remember the rows of salted snoek drying on the fence? The practice is at least 300 years old on the West Coast. It figures: snoek we have, salt we have. (salt pans at Velddrift). The winters here are stormy and it rains continiously. This is the time when the hearty dish of smoorsnoek is prepared. The dried salted snoek is soaked overnight to get rid of the salt and to miraculously restore the fish. The next day the fish is cooked in a little water for 15-20 minutes and 2 cups of the stock reserved. It is turned out on a tray and fine combed with two forks to get rid of all the bones, then cut up into cubes.

This is the way the dish is prepared: Fry a few onions and some cubed sweet peppers for colour. For a bigger family, half a shredded cabbage is added while the onions are frying. Add the cubed snoek, the stock and some cubed potatoes. Add pepper but no salt. Serve with rice. We always want something sweet with smoorsnoek and the famous South African chutneys are perfect with this dish.

In my painting I have used the very authentic hundred-year-old West Coast kitchen that I saw in the old schoolmaster's house a few days ago.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Schoolmaster's House at Modderrivier

As promised, I went down the hill today to the cottage in the valley. An old man of deep in his seventies lives there. He tells me that he was born on the farm Modderrivier and now lives in what used to be the schoolmaster 's house. He has learnt his Three R's together with about 50 other farm children. Although only having completed a very low grade, he explains to me that the high school children of today will never know everything that is in his head. I agree, because he has seen so much history.
The cottage is almost heart-breakingly pretty. If you add trees in full flower and three rounded toddlers, it becomes even more so. It has the wooded mountain on one side, but catches lots of sunlight and has a view down the valley. The proper large traditional chimney sits on one side. Inside the kitchen is the inglenook containing a wood-firing little Dover stove.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On the Dirt Road to Darling

Two kilometers from the sea you will start seeing sheep. They are healthy and robust and can display unusual behaviour. A few lazy sheep may lean against a fence, others will lean against them and more and more will do it. Kilograms of fat sheep leaning against the fences, no wonder that the wire often snaps. Behind the grazing sheep, deep in the valley lies a lovely white cottage said to be over a hundred years old. To get there you go off the maintained dirt road onto an unmaintained dirt road, park between lots of farm implements, get out and hike down to the cottage. People are living there and I am going to visit them tomorrow!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Old Fish Market at Yzerfontein

I loved observing the scene of the old fish market at Yzerfontein. The dirty yellow guano- incrusted building electrified the atmosphere. Loud-mouthed locals would beckon their customers in friendly competition with each other. Witticisms would fly around like the ever-present seagulls. The fare was usually fresh snoek, geelstert, red roman or great amounts of the small hottentots fish. Visiting the fish market was only the beginning of a lovely evening......
Nowadays there is a new fish market, widely promoted while it was being built. We go there in anticipation, only to realise that 'of-fish-cial-dom' rules. The facilities are for cleaning and gutting, but selling is not allowed. The public is unwelcome and the fishermen are unfriendly. An enquiry about buying is ignored and everyone must re-think the concept: market.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Snoek drying on the Fence

The northwestern corner of Ganzekraal has a barbed wire fence, an ideal place to dry out snoek. Everything starts with plankton being in abundance, this will bring on small fish and in turn draw the snoek. Of course man is on top of the food chain and hundreds of snoek are caught, cleaned, then stored under layers of salt for two to three days. Afterwards the salt is rinsed off and the fish are brought here to this high spot to dry in the sun and wind. In times when the West Coast is beaten by storms the snoek will keep in or out of a fridge and will be used to prepare smoorsnoek, a braised fish stew served with rice. Surprisingly, it is a lovely white stew in spite of the inedible colours seen when they are displayed in their long rows that seem to stretch all the way to Table Mountain.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anybody home?

I found this abandoned cottage about 6 kilometers from home on a dirt road. From the typical style it seems very old. The corrigated iron roof is loose and rusted through. The window glass is out, the doors blocked up. The garden is overgrown with fynbos and only the brave cactus indicates that there once was a garden. A deserted ruin....but then again, who has hung a piece of cloth in the window opening?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bird's Eye View of Cottages

The best things in life are free, they say, and looking at seagulls are absolutely the best! We who live by the sea can only see the animals up North at great cost. Looking for the Big Five, the Little Five and the Ugly Five can cost a fortune.

But lets see what we have here: these gracious white birds, day after day! I love them when the ants are out and they circle the house to catch them in midflight. I love them when heavy waves beat tiny sea creatures unconscious, and they do their daring dives into the turmoil to find the food. But the nicest time is the day after New Year, the traditional picnic day for the local people. Then these scavengers glide in lazily and low, they come from everywhere, in no haste and enjoying the scenery from up above. On that day you can lie on your back pointing the camera skywards and take hundreds of photographs. I have painted this picture as a gift some years ago. In it I show the proper 'bird's eye view' of the cottages.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cottages by the Sea

In the Cape vernacular architecture, form always followed function. Seaviews, etc were of no importance. Tiny doors and windows meant that the interiors were protected against the elements. When a basic house became too small, a flat-roofed structure was simply added to the existing building. And of course, the community was very supportive and there were no high walls and few fences dividing properties.

Today I really wanted to paint blob people: a few details, movement, light and shadow. The picture should be viewed from a distance to fill in the necessary - viewing it on a wall is perfect.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hendrik and Meraai

Don't ask me how thatch can be fixed with cement, but one can see it regularly in this area! This house in the painting will have a good wood fire for cooking, as can be judged by the large chimney built onto the outside.

I asked for a name suggestion for my painting, but my husband, who always names animals, immediately ventured "Hendrik and Meraai" for the chickens standing sentinel on the sidewalk. This is roughly translatable as Henry and Mary.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Blue Ladder

These cottages become more difficult to find on the West Coast of South Africa. I have an invitation to visit a lovely family at their farm cottage. Original building, several kids, sheep and chickens! One cannot ask for more in the line of inspiration. For my next painting, I will work on a cottage from a photo where the sky was a light orangy colour.