The Koos Malgas legacy at the Owl House
by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
I took you with me on our March 2010 visit to the Owl House in Nieu Bethesda. Visitors come to this far away town to see her home, filled with her art works, created thru the second half of her life.
The sculptures are crafted from concrete. If you are a sculptor, or a craftsperson imagine the artist Helen Martins handing you her idea, a rough sketch on the back of a match-box. A scribble on a paper napkin. And today something electronic. What does it do to the creative process if the mind's eye does not work thru a pencil on paper? Just tapping at an electronic keyboard? Writing from the heart.
So you can understand why Koos Malgas' granddaughter was bitter and indignant. All the benefit of tourism comes to White Nieu Bethesda. All the fame for the art lies with Miss Helen! From this young woman's sorrow grew a book - Koos Malgas, Sculptor of the Owl House - Julia Malgas and Jeni Couzyn.
What is rather fun is that Koos left a self-portrait of himself as shepherd. With this wonderful image of his daughters - two young girls, one older, one younger, in swirly dresses, hand in hand. Running to follow that star in The East (capitals because east is where Helen placed it!) There they will find the baby, lying in a stable, with his mother and father. A horde of camels and wise men from afar. It really is a step-out-of-this-world experience. I appreciated being alone, no-one else's comments, whether thoughtful or flippant, intruding on me.
The Camel Yard. And in The East, they saw a star...
Koos Malgas worked at shearing sheep, and casual labour out of season. He converted Helen's initial ideas, into actual three-dimensional sculptures in the garden. They worked together over the course of twelve years. He died in 2000. artthrob In Memory of Koos Malgas
House baby, and the garden baby
Jack from Sequoia Gardens in 2010 -'Ah, one day I will see the Owl House. It was immortalised for me by Yvonne Bryceland and Louis van Niekerk in the Market Theatre production of Atholl Fugard's play "The Road to Mecca (Broadway snippet)" about Miss Helen and the local dominee... Mecca? Surely not? Or perhaps that was an ironic reference to the dominee thinking she was busy with heathen things... I'm certain that was the title. I thought it one of Fugard's great plays, and Bryceland astounding. Thanks for sharing this South African icon with the world!'
Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer
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