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VVisiting Stellenbosch is a dream for every wine connoisseur. Endless rows of lush vineyards, glorious mountains, enchanting views and copious gastronomic pleasures define this top wine region, located just 40km east of Cape Town.
As South Africa’s most prominent wine district, Stellenbosch has the country’s oldest wine route, where visitors can sip, swirl and swallow their way through some of the best produce that this region has to offer. And while it might be great to enjoy a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon (the region’s most widely-planted grape) with braised beef short ribs from any of the town’s rustic restaurants – it would also be a brilliant idea to savour the captivating flavours of fine wine with great works of art.
More than just a global icon in the winemaking industry, Stellenbosch is a cradle of art. The streets, steeped in a history dating back to 1679, are inundated with an array of public displays, boasting different scales and styles.
AAmong them is a breathtaking design by local artist Strijdom van der Merwe, which sits boldly in front of the Town Hall and Council Chambers on Plein Street.
Unveiled in October 2013, the Mandela Memorial Square exhibits a laser-cut steel silhouette of Madiba’s face, which appears on two sides of a concrete block clad in white marble.
Mandela Memorial Square (Stellenbosch)
AAt first glance, the sculpture appears to be a map, but as you as you peruse the artwork, you’ll find that it morphs into a felicitous image of the late political leader. However, this brilliant piece is indeed a map as well, which plots locations in South Africa that played significant roles in Madiba's life. A popular Mandela quote etched in marble runs along a column on the ground: "Never, never and never again will this beautiful country of ours be oppressed by one over another" – apt for a region that was once a hotbed for apartheid.
Less than 10 minutes away from the memorial square and on the edge of town is the Rupert Art Museum. Opened in February 2005, the museum blends seamlessly with the historical surroundings of Stellenbosch through its old Cape Dutch-style building. It houses over 350 works of paintings, sculptures and tapestries from Anton and Hurberte Rupert’s unique and private art collection – which began in the early 1940s. Among them are spellbinding pieces by South African artists, such as Maggie Laubser, Irma Stern, Alexis Preller, Walter Battiss, Elza Dziomba, Jean Welz, JH Pierneef, Lippy Lipshitz, Moses Kotler, Anton van Wouw and Coert Steynberg.
MMeanwhile, between majestic mountains and overlooking the vineyards of Stellenbosch, Delaire Graff Estate treats discerning guests to Dylan Lewis’ signature big cat bronzes, which surround the wine estate and lodge. For the past nine years, the landscape artist has been working on the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden – “a place of expansive vistas, scents and the sounds of nature, with tranquil groves, hidden paths and lush indigenous vegetation.” Over 60 sculptures constituting a comprehensive record of Lewis' full artistic development are carefully laid out on the garden for showcasing: the human form, shamanic figures, monumental abstracted fragments and his iconic great cats.
SSerious art collectors can arrange a visit to see how Lewis expresses the notion of untamed wilderness within the human psyche both in the sculptors and their positioning in the landscape.
Stellenbosch is also home to one of the largest commercial exhibition spaces in the Western Cape province - the Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary (SMAC) Gallery. Located on the first floor of the De Wet Centre on Church Street, SMAC showcases some of the most compelling works by local contemporary visual artists as well as lesser-known examples of modern abstract art, art of the protest era, and South African art of the post-war period.
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The AmaXhosa are part of three nations known as Nguni that are found in South Africa. The other two are AmaSwazi and AmaZulu. The AmaXhosa settled in the Eastern Cape and over time spread to the Western Cape.