Norval Foundation spectacular

Metrorail train. Photo: African News Agency

Jaw dropping – that’s the only way I can describe my first visit to the Norval Foundation on Steenberg Road.

In spite of watching its construction over two years and gawping at the enormous yellow cranes, nothing prepared me for the size, scale, space and wonder of the building.

Nor the fact that something so grand and beautiful had been financed by one man.

Starting from driving into the underground garage, which seemed the size of the Blue Route Mall’s, I began to feel like Alice in Wonderland. Everything so big and I so small.

In the atrium we were confronted with what looked like a load of giants’ ladders, but turned out to be Serge Alain Nitegeka’s wood and acrylic Structural Response III.

Without the free exhibitions guide, I would not have made the connection with this installation’s central theme of forced migration causing disrupted lives, work and spaces.

Modern art goes much deeper than making pretty pictures and if a bit of help opens your eyes to the artist’s intent, he’s not wasting your time and you come to appreciate his views.

I was most impressed with the spaciousness between the exhibits in Pulling at Threads, a display of artworks celebrating the practice of artists using weaving, sewing, beading and collage.

William Kentridge and Marguerite Stephens had almost a whole wall to display their magnificent 2009 340 x 360cm tapestry City of Moscow. On another wall was Nick Cave’s amusing digital colour video of two adversaries dressed entirely in rattling buttons with what looked like an abacus instead of a face.

I half expected the White Rabbit to join in the fight.

As we wanted to see the Sculpture Garden before coffee in the Skotnes restaurant, we left the sculpture exhibits for another visit.

A circular path winds its way past the protected wetland with its reeds and croaking frogs and on to a stunning display of purple scabiosa and shrubs, interspersed with large artworks.

They vary from Victor Ehikhamenor’s Isimagodo, an unknowable colourful giant creature in enamel paint and steel, to Angus Taylor’s realistic six-metre figure of an upside down man with one huge leg in the air.

I felt like a midget next to it and, like Alice, wanted to drink something to get back to my normal size.

Fields of happiness

The good June rains, followed by a dry and hot July, have caused some early West Coast wild flowers to shrivel and die. However, the erratic weather seems to have agreed with the canola fields, which are looking stunning and have turned the Western Cape landscape into various shades of bright yellow.

Several green fields next to the road to Malmesbury, which a month ago we thought might be a crop of potatoes, have turned out to be canola – an abbreviation of “Canadian oil, low acid”.

This name was considered more market friendly than the rapeseed from which in the 1960s the Canadians first derived the oil. Here the word rape comes from the Latin word rapum, meaning turnip, as turnips, cabbages, Brussel sprouts and many other veggies are related to canola.

I have a bee-keeping friend who every year takes his hives into the canola fields to pollinate the small, yellow flowers which turn into small, round black, brown or yellow oil-producing seeds.

The exercise is good for his pocket but tough on his hands because the franticly working bees become quite manic during pollination and he gets many stings. Luckily he appears to be resistant to bee venom…but this resistance can change.

I had a girl friend who for years had a hive at her back door without a problem, until one sting changed all that.

Up in smoke

Returning home on Saturday July 28 after a lovely sunny day up the West Coast, I was shocked when approaching the Koeberg interchange to access the Black River Parkway, when I noticed a huge column of brown smoke going up almost vertically. I felt sick knowing that the only thing in that locality likely to make so much dark smoke must be a train.

Nobody seems to know who is behind the arsonists destroying our trains. You hear odd whispers that “it’s the taxis” or, as transport minister Blade Nzimande said recently “serious organised crime”. The reality is that Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is a totally toothless State Owned Enterprise. If it can’t even sort out sand on the tracks or get a conviction on one case of arson, how will it ever stop billions of taxpayers’ money going up in smoke?

Surely it is time to spend money on sophisticated equipment and manpower to protect and guard the trains and, if the Railway Police no longer exist, reinstate this force. No trains old or new are safe while arsonists are getting away with creating havoc.

Costly losses

Noticing a friend’s husband looking at me rather strangely as I was searching among weeds and grasses for the Honda key I lost in the Tokai Plantation three months ago, I explained that a new key would cost over R3 000.

He told me how he’d rescued his hat one day and had walked on without realising that the wind had also whipped off his expensive prescription glasses which would cost R13 000 to replace.

In terms of his loss against mine I was cheered up…although I felt a bit like the man who was unhappy he had no shoes until he saw someone with no feet.

fionachisholm@iafrica.com