05 June 2011 by Julienne du Toit

The Art of Stanley Grootboom

I pass through the Garden Route fairly often, and suffer from a tendency to think I know the place.

A few months ago, I stopped at the Khoi-San village, which is near the Storms River Bridge, spanning the yawning river chasm that separates the Western and Eastern Cape provinces.

Years ago there had been a devastating fire that swept through the pines in this area, and the Khoi-San Village was good as destroyed. The last time I drove through, most of the business was focused on the bungy jump company that operates nearby.

This time, when I stopped, an elven, sprightly young man appeared as if out of nowhere. This is Stanley Grootboom, who runs what he has dubbed the Cradle of Mankind Cultural Village. Grandiose, but why not? Stanley, who is in his mid-thirties, has accomplished wonders here. He has taken derelict old rondavels and transformed them into a bit of an attraction. One of the largest structures houses his paintings.

Stanley is an artist with an eye on the present and an eye on the past. Among his favourite subjects are the old forestry villages that are now fading away and falling apart. They include places like Goesa, Krakeel, Coldstream, Clarkson, Gamtoos and Fairview. He also paints things like social delivery protests, and tells me with some satisfaction how one such picture hung for some time in the Plettenberg Bay municipal offices.

His work is muscular and vivid, with a social conscience. Stanley’s inspiration comes directly from people, from scenes he sees as he travels. A man nursing a bottle of Zamalek after coming back from a funeral. A streetchild sleeping on a roof. A woman cooking on her coal stove. The white houses and shop at Clarkson. A double-storey wooden shack in Plett township.

Unlike most artists, he’s media-savvy. “If you need to get hold of me, just Google me,” he says.

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