07 November 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Articulate expressions of SA culture

This weekend, I was lucky enough to be a guest at Djuma Private Game Reserve. I was there to cover a story on a fantastic initiative by Djuma, who, working in conjunction with Wildearth TV and a very passionate team of guides, offer guests all over the world a live, interactive ‘virtual’ game drive twice a day. Thanks to Marc Weiner, Tara Pirie and Sebastien Rombi for hosting me at Vuyatela, one of Djuma’s camps, and inspiring me with their project - more about it another time.

In this blog, I want to talk a bit about Vuyatela’s décor, which I thought was fun, quirky and South African - while avoiding some of the worst bushveld décor clichés.

Along with the lodge’s funky selection of African art, the mosaics stood out as really original, lending the place a chic sparkle that speaks of fun, creativity and an openness to the many influences that make South African modern art unique.

The mosaics, and a large number of the paintings in the lodge, were created by Pippa Moolman, who, with her husband, owns Djuma. Pippa trained as a graphic fine artist. She has had group and solo art exhibitions and has been an active textile printer and trader.

Her mosaic art started as a commercial enterprise while she was creating the pieces for Vuyatela.  Pippa began working in panels pasted on flexible netting. This indirect-method allowed her to custom make panels to suit specific themes, colours and designs, allowing her to complete the work “off-site” prior to installation, thus making it very convenient for clients or installation artisans.

Some of the accommodation units at Vuyatela have abstract patterns painted on the walls and others reflect domestic scenes. Pippa, with the help of talented friends, created a set of mosaics for each room and these colourful patterns and symbols add to the atmosphere of each. In the main building the name of the bar, “Shebeen” and of the curio shop, “Spaza”, were made of brightly coloured tiles that reflect exquisite attention to detail.

Vuyatela’s mosaics are just part of a design concept that reflects a mix of different peoples and cultures.  As Djuma’s website points out,  South Africa has become the melting pot of Africa and, our cultural heritage reflects a fusion of influences. Various aesthetic traditions combine and today, fashion, music , building and design in South Africa are articulate expressions of modern South African culture.

Throughout the rest of the lodge, African symbolism in the form of masks and carvings has been re-interpreted in modern materials, some recycled from everyday life. Chandeliers are made out of glass Coca Cola bottles, paper maché bowls are lined with packaging from Boxer Tobacco, Lion Matches, King Korn, to name a few. Files and folders are made of flattened cool drink tins.

All of this is a distinctly African reinterpretation of something akin to the Pop Art from the sixties, with echoes of Andy Warhol interacting with the bushveld landscape in a very special way.

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