By MICHELLE CONSTANT
“ON RECYCLING ART”
GLASS BEADS, glass, and ceramic chips. These are the materials that the young artisans in the Spier Art Academy use to create their works. Their mosaics and beaded images are on display at the small Spier Artisan Studio on the wine estate, which also offers works for sale, and work hours for the crafters. The Stellenbosch studio is a satellite venue of the “mother lode” in Cape Town. The studio on the wine farm looks like an amalgam of an 18th century sweet shop and an apothecary. Large, backlit bottles, filled with what look like colourful sweets or pills, are, in fact, jars filled with glass beads and mosaic squares, It’s an airy, delightful space where the artisans hone their craft, creating works for clients and tourists.
It’s a coot and creative space, offering respite on a hot, waterless day in the winelands. The Spier Art Academy offers student artisans NQF-level learning, supporting work creation for diverse members of the Stellenbosch community’ and further afield. Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at the Spier Estate, and I was impressed by the real drive for shared values, and, indeed, sustainable cultural tourism. The estate tagline is: “thinking responsibly, working ethically, and inspiring change.” It’s a big promise, and yet, when one looks at the farm’s sustainability initiatives, it’s a promise that is kept. One hundred percent of the Spier wastewater, and 80% of the solid waste, is recycled. In fact, in 2007 Spier pioneered a centralised wastewater-treatment plant, which then waters the grounds and the farm’s food gardens. When I first saw the plant a few years ago, what struck me was how beautiful it was.
It’s shaped in a yin and yang circle, with spiral forms, and reed beds: it is the antithesis of what we are led to believe a water- recycling plant should look like. It calls to mind many of the creatively and beautifully envisioned public spaces on the Spier Estate.
In particular, one finds incredible contemporary artworks: both as public art, and also as artworks in the hotel’s public spaces, curated and collated by the Spier Art trust. The collection is one of the largest contemporary South African collections in the country. For art lovers, a chance to visit Spier is an opportunity to support the growth of creative work and creative workers. Given our massive challenges of inequality and need for work creation among South African youth, I believe that this is something we should all support when we next take a trip to the Cape.
Constant is the CEO of Business and Arts South Africa and the presenter of SAfm lifestyle (Saturdays. 9am to noon)