Country kitsch

One man’s kitsch is another man’s treasure. This is true for Vladimir Tretchikoff (aka Kitschikoff in many circles) whose art epitomised kitsch and was considered as being in very bad taste. It didn’t deter thousands of South Africans from hanging prints of his luridly coloured pieces all over their homes. The last laugh is on him, or would be if he was still alive, because one of his most reviled works – the Chinese Girl, also one of the most reprinted paintings of the 20th century – recently sold at Bonhams for close to a million pounds. It was bought by the owner of the Delaire-Graff wine estate in Stellenbosch and will be ‘launched’ in September, when it’ll join the rest of Lawrence Graff’s fabulous art collection.

So much for kitsch. I still think it’s a revolting painting but I will make a point of viewing it when I am at Delaire-Graff since I often take clients there for lunch or tastings. I doubt I’ll be getting the nod for the gala launch event, though. By the way, the rumours that Vladimir was having it off with his models are not true – here’s the Chinese girl’s story with a photo of the painting in question. If you’re at all interested in this man and his story Google his name – there’s loads of info out there, the story of where the Chinese Girl lay for decades, unloved, unwanted, is fascinating and the man himself is a classic case of someone completely unknown in the country of his birth but madly loved elsewhere. Well, here anyway.

Back to kitsch.

The countryside is full of kitsch and, thanks to my friend Caroline (who loves kitsch), I now make a point of taking photos of kitsch whenever I can. Here’s a selection from my recent Overberg roadtrip.


This beauty is on the pavement outside a house in Hermanus. I did a double take and reversed to get a better look and take the photo. In the city it wouldn’t last 5 minutes. I’d hate to think what it cost. In terms of style, it has absolutely no visible connection to the house – I think that’s what makes it such utter kitsch.

I spent a night in Stanford a lovely little village with loads of character and pretty houses. I booked into a guesthouse I’d found online and nothing prepared me for this place. The owner is a very sweet lady who has an immaculate garden full of succulents collected over many years. It really is the most amazing collection and this is what makes the interior of the house all the more surprising – it is choc-a-bloc full of geegaws and vases  filled with artificial flowers all over the place. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a massive bunch of gorgeous fresh proteas on a pole at the street entrance but artificial flowers all over the house. Go figure.


This was the piece de resistance in the dining room. Not a speck of dust anywhere.


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Despite the strange interior, outside was lovely with many containers full of unusual and pretty succulents. Oh, and the rabbit … huge, with spiky fur standing on end as if he’d been blow-dried. I tried to stroke it, many times, but it kept hopping out of reach until I had exhausted myself and I really needed to get back on the road.


See what I mean? A really pretty place.

Two days later I was in Gansbaai and, under strict instructions from Caroline, popped in to Rosemary’s place. Oh my god. Hidden away behind a dark and over-cluttered interior is an equally cluttered garden dining area. It’s so over the top, photos won’t do it justice. There’s a central pond and around it a variety of different types of tables and chairs, or things to sit on, and many many containers with plants. Many of the chairs and tables are totally unsuitable for eating because they’re either recliners or the chairs are miles away from the table and immovable.

You have to walk very gingerly to reach your table because of all the stuff you need to step around. However, the service was excellent and my Caesar salad would’ve been perfect if not for the liberal quantity of fresh coriander – I loathe the stuff. As peculiar as it was, I will probably go back to Rosemary’s, kitsch and all, because it’s cosy and friendly and I can always tell them to hold the coriander.


The toilet walls are papered with old newspapers, really really old newspapers, and sheet music.


A garden brimming with lovely plants but they couldn’t resist a few silk lilies.


A statue is a prerequisite in a kitsch garden, and a chair made only for drinking or finger food because it’s half a mile away from the table.


Upcycling, recycling.


I almost stood on it.


I don’t get why the tree trunks are covered with green cloth.



Hermanus by night

Continuing on my recent solo Overberg roadtrip, I spent the last night in Hermanus as a guest of the Quarters Hotel.  Hermanus has become extremely touristy and commercialised and the streets near the ocean are very congested at times but the modernising has been done nicely, you can’t hep but like it. It’s best to park your car and just walk – I’m glad I did that and had some time to wander around alone.

Despite being mid-winter it was as hot as a summer’s day, even at sunset when I arrived. I checked into my hotel at lightning speed and went to catch the last of the sunset, take a few mediocre photos and stroll through the town. A light meal and a glass of wine at a little tapas place, some people watching and eavesdropping on their conversations (nothing interesting on this occasion) and then I went to explore my hotel room. Not bad.  The bathroom is open-plan to the bedroom (but you can pull down a discreet blind and close it off) and I lay in the bath watching tv for a while before I got bored with that. It’s not a cheap hotel and was very comfortable but I found it a bit awkward that the only way to plug in a charger is to unplug the bedside light; and there was no mini-bar – yes, I know, they cost the earth but sometimes you want a nightcap.


Every town on the whale route has one of these. That’s my hotel in the background, sandwiched between 2 ancient fisherman’s cottages.

Next morning up nice and early, breakfast (I have a guilty pleasure: I love hotel breakfasts!), and time to explore Hermanus. First I explored the little square where the last remaining old fishermen cottages are – it’s such a pity so few have been retained, they’re such a classic sight in this part of the world but sadly Hermanus hasn’t many left. I walked along the cliff top for a distance, further out of town as opposed to the town bits I do with clients – it’s nicer out of town. This cliffwalk is not only lovely but there are no steep bits so I love it! I saw some whales of course, and then drove up to Fernkloof Nature Reserve. That was a treat – I walked through the garden and a little way up the mountainside which was full of stunning proteas. I picked up a tick which I only discovered later – ticks freak me out but there is that thrill of feeling like you’ve done a bit of bundu-bashing to get it. I bought some plants at the nursery, including a special dark orange black-eyed Susan that I can never find in town, and there’s one I haven’t planted yet because I’ve completely forgotten what it is so don’t know where to put it. It’s been sitting on the table outside and has grown so much I suspect it might be a creeper but am not sure what type.








Fernkloof was really looking very pretty

I went to the Hemel en Aarde Village which has some really lovely little shops  and did a wine tasting at the Hermanuspietersfontein shop – that’s a mouthful of a name but guess what? That was the original name of Hermanus, named after the visionary who saw the potential of this area, but now obviously shortened for convenience. I bought some Kleinboet, a most delectable Bordeaux blend.

The boys came up from town and after lunch we went for dessert to a coffee shop owned by a friend just out of town – that was cool. We were in high spirits, the desserts were divine, the friend was so happy to see us that we were made to down-down a couple of Grappas and then it was time to head on home.

One of the boys raced back to town via the highway and the other one came with me as we returned via the scenic coastal road with a stop at Stoney Point in Betty’s Bay to see the penguins. It was closing just as we arrived but we managed to spot a few ducking in the bushes.

This was the last day of my roadtrip but I’m not blogging in the order of the trip so there’s more to come.


I wondered how many people throw those ribbons away. I removed it carefully and put it on a shelf, they’d better have used it again.


Clarence Drive – such a photogenic place


The old Hermanus harbour at sunset


Check out those socks.


Very old wall in Hermanus


Easily the prettiest hotel in Hermanus from the outside – will check it out inside one of these days.


Can’t be too many towns in the world where the old harbour is a national monument.


Middle of winter in Hermanus – the tourists were happy.


The dassies (hyrax) at Stoney Point are not at all shy.


Stoney Point African penguin


Day two.

So we get to Hermanus nice and early and the sun is shining but there’s not a whale in sight. Coffee-shop man says you need to go out on a boat to see them, look over there where all the boats are, that’s where they are, I’ll arrange it for you, you leave at noon.

Noon finds us at the harbour,  eager beavers ready to board. Well, I was less than eager since going out to sea in the middle of winter is not very high on my bucket list. But hey, this is work.

After an interminable time on the high seas the boat shows no sign of slowing down. And we’re way far from the boats we saw from shore. Actually we went right past all of them, they were friendly and waved .. fishermen are like that.

We were almost at Kleinmond when we went very close to shore and there they were, masses of whales doing all the fun stuff that whales do and which gets tourists and photographers very excited. I took a few poor photos then decided to just watch the show. It was my last moment of pleasure for the day. Not counting bath and bed.

We had gone so far out that the skipper was in a rush to get back. He hit that throttle with a vengeance but no warning and we were treated to shower after shower all the way back. Not a single person escaped it, we were drenched, we were sitting in water, we had water trickling into every sleeve and collar, two small children were terrified (their parents took it very well and laughed a lot, the Dutch are strange that way, good sports and all). We huddled in misery.

By the time we got back we were too late for our posh wine and food pairing, we were wet and cold, we had no spare clothes and we were hungry. I was mortified, these are my clients!!!! I marched to the booking office to ask a few questions. Okay, it was more of a squelch than a march, but I got an apology for the crew not letting down the side canvasy things that would have kept us dry, and a partial refund. But we were still hungry and wet and cold.

We trooped into town to buy socks and fleecy tops from hawkers and walked into a sushi restaurant where a waiter by the name of Desire saw to our every need, including placing us near a heater. We ate lunch in sopping wet trousers.  The chairs were mock ostrich, not fabric – we checked before sitting.

We drove home with the heater on full blast and luckily Clarence Drive is so beautiful that it helped us get over the trauma of the wettest whale watching ever.  My guests are now in Botswana on safari, hoping the lions are easier to see.

This is the last photo of the day, the setting sun making pink mountains. No photos of whales, I’m a bit off them now.


A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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