Thursday, 14 August 2008

Visionary Environment – Helen Martins and The Owl House of Nieu Bethesda







“On a cold winters' morning in 1976, at the age of seventy-eight, Helen Martins took her own life by swallowing caustic soda.” (From the biography of Helen Martins on the official Owl House Foundation site http://www.owlhouse.co.za/)

So ended the tragic yet somehow beautiful life of a colourful character whose artistic vision and psychological depth went mostly unnoticed by her neighbours in the dusty, out-of-the-way Great Karoo village of Nieu Bethesda.

Helen Martins, who went on to create the fantastical sculptures and decorations of the Owl House, was born in 1897, the youngest of six children born to “Oom” (Uncle) Piet Martins and his wife.

Nieu Bethesda is a small village in the Great Karoo, founded by the Rev. Andrew Murray, in a valley of the Sneeuberge (Snow Mountains), in1875. It lies in the shadow of the Compassberg, which, at 2 540 metres, is the highest mountain in the Eastern Cape.

My former wife Joan and I visited there in October 1999 and were entranced, as are so many others, by the Owl House. The spirit of Helen Martins is almost palpable in the house and its fantastical garden.

The small house is full of colour and shimmer from the ground-glass wall covering and the large panes of coloured glass in the windows. The interior was where Miss Helen, as she was known, started the transformation of her modest home back in the late 40s or early 50s. For this stage of the transformation of the house she used two local workmen to enlarge windows and help with the painting and installation of the ground glass wall coverings.

The garden is crowded with camels and owls and people of all kinds, many with skirts of coloured glass bottles, most of them facing East.

According to the official website of the Owl House Museum the number of visitors to this fascinating place has reached more than 15 000 annually. This begs the question, Why? What is it that people look for there? What draws them to this rather strange place in a very out-of-the-way corner of South Africa, far from the beaten track, far from any glitz or glitter?

The house itself is small and architecturally nondescript. And yet more than 1000 people visit it each month on average. Though I must admit the day we were there we were the only visitors, so I’m not sure when these 1000 people visit. Maybe in holiday seasons. We visited in a very low season.

Nieu Bethesda itself is a really beautiful place, calm and peaceful to the point of somnolence. And like so many such places full of stories and legends.

One of the most potent of these is the story of Miss Helen and her Owl House. Is the house the beginning or the end of her “Road to Mecca”? Is her garden of wonders and delights a happy or a sad place?

For the people of Nieu-Bethesda it was in her lifetime a place of mystery and fear, a place which loudly disturbed the Calvinist calm and quiet of their town with its Christian symbols facing the Muslim Mecca, with its brooding sexual questioning. Even her relationship with the workman Koos Malgas became an affront to the burghers’ sensitivities in the depth of apartheid South Africa.

Athol Fugard’s moving play “The Road to Mecca” is about this confrontation between the repression of convention, symbolised by the character Marius Beyleveldt, and the defiance of the visionary, embodied by Miss Helen.

It is tempting to see in Miss Helen’s outpouring of creations, her obsessive covering of the walls of her house, evidence of sickness, of a diseased mind, as in what has become known as “outsider art” or , in Jean Dubuffet’s term, “Art Brut”. This kind of art has become well known and widely studied and certainly there are similarities with Miss Helen’s creations.

Dubuffet wrote about Art Brut that it was created without reference to “worries of competition, acclaim and social promotion” and was largely self-taught. Miss Helen certainly created from what Dubuffet called “solitude and from pure and authentic creative impulses”, but she was at the same time, perhaps paradoxically, concerned for the preservation of her creations, and was concerned to some extent about their acceptance by others. She wanted, according to the Owl House Museum website, to be recognised as an artist.

One of the most famous “outsider” artists is the Swiss asylum inmate Adolf Wofli, who also wanted to be recognised as an artist. His output of drawings shows he had what is termed a “horror vacui”, a fear of empty spaces, and so his many drawings are obsessively covered with no white spaces left. Was there a similar fear at work in Miss Helen? I would suspect so, though I would not imagine her to be mad, as Wolfli undoubtedly was.

What she undoubtedly was, was a sign of contradiction in an era and place of conformity. Graeme Revell, who has studied the music that Wofli composed, has written that Wolfli’s music brings us to “The realisation also that our aesthetic sensibility is constrained by our limited perceptual ability.” In other words, what we see (or hear) is limited by what we are able, as culturally determined, to see (or hear).

Which brings us back to the question of what people come to the Owl House wanting or expecting to see? Is it a morbid fascination with or expectations of seeing symptoms of a sick mind? Is it the attraction of the merely picaresque? Or is there some sense of coming into contact with something deeper. Some deep connection with the origins of human creativity, perhaps?

Dubuffet on outsider art again: “After a certain familiarity with these flourishing of an exalted feverishness, lived so fully and so intensely by their authors, we cannot avoid the feeling that in relation to these works, cultural art in its entirety appears to be the game of a futile society, a fallacious parade."

However I would not characterise the Owl House as “outsider art” but rather as a “visionary environment” as in the following definition: “Visionary environments ("fantasy worlds") are extensive/large-scale artistic installations (buildings, sculpture parks, etc) intended to capture intense subjective/personal experiences (dreams, fantasies, obsessions, etc) of their creators. The subjective/personal nature of these projects often implies a marginal status for the artists involved, and there is a strong association between visionary environments and outsider art.” (Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visionary_environments - accessed 140808).

What l was left with at the end of our visit was a somewhat wistful feeling, a feeling that Miss Helen haad been trying to communicate something very deep, very powerful to anyone who would visit her house, but somehow that something was at once so fleeting and so obscure that to grasp it might destroy it, that in the looking at it too deeply its meaning might be lost. The feeling was something like what Wolfli wrote towards the end of his life: “Some day again – in the dark wind – sweet childlike innocence will come.”

Perhaps that is what the owl house provokes, a sense of childlike wonder and curiosity, something will-o-the-wispish, playful yet sad, fleeting and profound, that evokes in people a nostalgia for what can never be. A paradoxical coming together of darkness and innocence, symbolised by the ethereal quality of the constructions in the Camel Yard, made of such earthly and commonplace materials yet pointing to something far other.

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

[url=http://www.onlinecasinos.gd]Online casinos[/url], also known as accepted casinos or Internet casinos, are online versions of acknowledged ("chunk and mortar") casinos. Online casinos concurrence gamblers to extemporize and wager on casino games from start to finish the Internet.
Online casinos unspecifically gig odds and payback percentages that are comparable to land-based casinos. Some online casinos drag attention to on higher payback percentages as a countermeasure looking as a redress in place of unpremeditated implement games, and some drop upon known payout recreation audits on their websites. Assuming that the online casino is using an well programmed unspecific girl up generator, committee games like blackjack clothed an established column edge. The payout part as a replacement exchange exchange for these games are established erstwhile the rules of the game.
Myriad online casinos sublease or widespread their software from companies like Microgaming, Realtime Gaming, Playtech, Worldwide Manoeuvre Technology and CryptoLogic Inc.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this paragraph is pleasant, my sister is analyzing
these kinds of things, thus I am going to tell her.

Feel free to visit my site: free money for bills

Anonymous said...

Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favourite reason seemed to be
at the web the simplest thing to have in mind of.
I say to you, I definitely get irked while folks think about issues that they just don't realize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest and outlined out the entire thing without having side-effects , other folks could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

Here is my site ... binary options trading strategy

Anonymous said...

What's up, its nice article on the topic of media print, we all be familiar with media is a impressive source of information.

Here is my webpage; part time online jobs

Anonymous said...

Hello to every , since I am truly eager of reading this webpage's post to be updated daily. It contains pleasant information.

My site; day trading newsletter

Anonymous said...

Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group?
There's a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thank you

Feel free to surf to my web-site binary options software

Anonymous said...

I am truly grateful to the owner of this web page who
has shared this wonderful paragraph at at this time.


Feel free to surf to my website; forex trading courses

Anonymous said...

It's an awesome piece of writing for all the internet users; they will obtain benefit from it I am sure.

my homepage - Cedar finance withdrawl max
Also see my webpage - trading cedar finance

Anonymous said...

Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I to find It
truly helpful & it helped me out much. I am hoping to offer something again
and aid others such as you helped me.

Also visit my web site: online slot machines real money

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the recommendation. Let me try it out.

Also visit my blog :: Make money now

Anonymous said...

Good post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject?
I'd be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Appreciate it!

Here is my web site :: binary options brokers
My website :: trade in gold

Anonymous said...

I seriously love your site.. Pleasant colors & theme.
Did you make this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I'm wanting to create my own personal blog and want to find out where you got this from or what the theme is called. Many thanks!

Review my site: earn money online

Anonymous said...

What i do not realize is if truth be told how you are no longer really a lot more
neatly-favored than you might be right now.
You're very intelligent. You already know thus considerably when it comes to this matter, produced me individually consider it from a lot of numerous angles. Its like women and men aren't fascinated unless
it's something to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your personal stuffs excellent. At all times deal with it up!

Also visit my weblog: easiest way to make money
My site > genuine ways to earn money online

Anonymous said...

There's certainly a lot to find out about this topic. I love all the points you made.

Here is my homepage real legitimate work from home jobs
My webpage - legit work from home jobs

Anonymous said...

My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find almost
all of your post's to be exactly I'm looking for. Would you
offer guest writers to write content available for you?
I wouldn't mind writing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome site!

My web blog; earn extra money online

Anonymous said...

First off I would like to say terrific blog!
I had a quick question which I'd like to ask if you don't mind.
I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.
I have had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there.
I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to
15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how
to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Many thanks!

Here is my web site :: are there any legitimate work at home jobs

Anonymous said...

It's going to be finish of mine day, but before end I am reading this impressive paragraph to improve my experience.

My blog post: ways to make easy money fast

Anonymous said...

I got this web page from my pal who shared with me about this
web page and now this time I am browsing this web page and reading very informative posts here.


Stop by my website: easy way to make money online

Anonymous said...

I'll right away grab your rss as I can not find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you've any?

Kindly permit me recognise so that I could subscribe. Thanks.


my web-site online slots money

Anonymous said...

Hey! Quick question that's entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My blog looks weird when browsing from my iphone4. I'm trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to resolve this problem.

If you have any recommendations, please share. Thank you!


Feel free to surf to my weblog ... top 10 online jobs

Anonymous said...

Hi, I do think this is an excellent web site. I stumbledupon it ;) I'm going to revisit once again since I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.

Stop by my website - how to make money fast without a job

Anonymous said...

It's going to be end of mine day, however before finish I am reading this great paragraph to improve my experience.

Feel free to surf to my site - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN36K29q7_Q

Anonymous said...

A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment.
I think that you ought to write more on this subject matter, it might
not be a taboo matter but typically people don't speak about these subjects. To the next! Best wishes!!

Here is my web blog - withdraw money from "cedarfinance.com"

Anonymous said...

Your means of describing all in this post is truly fastidious, every
one be able to simply understand it, Thanks a lot.

Take a look at my homepage how to make quick money online

Anonymous said...

Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your site and in
accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog
posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently quickly.

Also visit my blog post cedar Finance.com

Anonymous said...

Highly descriptive article, I liked that bit. Will there be a part 2?


Feel free to surf to my webpage - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwNoScYCj-w

Anonymous said...

Your mode of explaining all in this paragraph is actually pleasant, all be able to easily be aware of it, Thanks a lot.


Also visit my webpage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGHu6riO7Dc

Anonymous said...

Hello, i think that i saw you visited my site so i came to “return
the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my website!
I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

Also visit my website ... how to make extra money online

Anonymous said...

Very nice post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I've truly loved browsing your blog posts. In any case I'll be subscribing for your rss feed and I am hoping you write once more very
soon!

My homepage: legit online jobs

Anonymous said...

I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
I'll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later. All the best

Feel free to visit my web site :: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErFAXQcDoRU

Anonymous said...

You really make it appear so easy together with your presentation
however I in finding this matter to be really one thing which I feel I'd by no means understand. It kind of feels too complex and extremely huge for me. I'm
taking a look forward in your subsequent put up,
I'll attempt to get the cling of it!

Here is my homepage ... online jobs

Anonymous said...

Very good post. I am experiencing many of
these issues as well..

my web site oil trading companies

Anonymous said...

You ought to take part in a contest for one of the highest
quality blogs on the net. I am going to recommend
this web site!

Also visit my web page; how to make fast money legally

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I'm impressed! Extremely useful info particularly the closing phase :) I deal with such information much. I was looking for this certain info for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

my web page ... forex trading reviews

Anonymous said...

Hi, its pleasant article on the topic of media print, we all be familiar with media is a great source of facts.



Here is my web page ... forex online trading

Anonymous said...

Please let me know if you're looking for a article author for your site. You have some really great articles and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I'd absolutely love to write some material
for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please shoot me an
email if interested. Many thanks!

Feel free to surf to my homepage - clear

Anonymous said...

I was pretty pleased to find this great site. I wanted to thank you for ones time
just for this wonderful read!! I definitely appreciated every part of it and
I have you saved to fav to see new stuff in your
website.

My web page: cedarfinace review

Anonymous said...

I like the valuable information you supply
on your articles. I will bookmark your blog and
test once more right here regularly. I am fairly certain I will learn plenty of new stuff
right here! Best of luck for the following!

Also visit my webpage; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoRWJriSgKc

Anonymous said...

I am genuinely happy to glance at this webpage posts which consists of plenty of helpful information, thanks for providing such data.


Here is my web blog :: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLuC1nG5cPk

Anonymous said...

Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be ok. I'm absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.


Feel free to visit my blog :: legit ways to make money online

Anonymous said...

I don't even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but definitely you're going to a famous blogger if you are not already
;) Cheers!

Here is my weblog ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwex99npRdc

Anonymous said...

When I initially commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox
and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.

Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!


Feel free to surf to my webpage; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIM8WR8SlpY

Anonymous said...

You are in for an adventure that will last a lifetime. The bone cancer can manifest by itself in form of the new bone formation in arms also. At the end of the week, most people want to rest or catch up on chores that were left unfinished during the week.
http://pregnancyhelper.in/societal-pressure.html

Anonymous said...

Hydrogen peroxide is believed as best remedy for tongue cold sores.
These blisters are filled with a large quantity of fluid and are quite distracting to yourself and those visiting with you.

You cringe when you look in the mirror at an
area on your lip the size of a small island.

my web page - cold sore remedies

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you, However
I am having problems with your RSS. I don't understand the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody having similar RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

Feel free to surf to my website: free Microsoft Points Codes

Anonymous said...

With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or
copyright violation? My site has a lot of unique content I've either authored myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my agreement. Do you know any solutions to help stop content from being ripped off? I'd genuinely appreciate it.


Here is my web-site ... Unknown

Anonymous said...

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog
posts. After all I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

My page ... 7zip Download

Anonymous said...

This design is incredible! You most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained.
Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost.

..HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
Too cool!

Also visit my blog: options trading basics

Anonymous said...

Thank you admin for the post ..!


Seputar forex

Agnes said...

h3ncash adalah agen Sbobet Mobile menjadi situs taruhan bola online ter besar yang memiliki banyak pemain di dalam nya dan telah menikmati fasilitas yang ada. Selain itu sbobet mobile juga menyedia kan permainan lain Casino, Slot, atau poker.

Jenniper said...

pokerblibli adalah salah satu poker online yang paling diminati saat ini, selain banyak bonus yang bisa di dapat. ayo tunggu apalagi, bergabunglah dengan poker online blibli

Jenniper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

Agen Sbobet h3ncash Situs judi yang mempunyai banyak pemain dan situs judi online terbesar diindonesia. dengan pelayanan dan keramahan agen yang berkualitas.

Juliesar said...

h3ncash adalah situs yang akan memberikan anda sebuah permainan Judi Sbobet yang terbaik dan terpercaya tentunya. Sesuai dengan visi misi yang selalu mengembangkan internal kami. Untuk meningkatkan inovasi dalam memberikan yang terbaik di antara yang terbaik bagi para petaruh judi di Indonesia.

ligaindo55.net said...

Agen Sbobet Online ligaindo55 langsung menawarkan kesenangan dan akses dari mana saja di planet ini melalui online.

AGEN SBOBET online ligaindo55 langsung menyampaikan pengertian klub judi kepada Anda.

Ligaindo55 Merupakan Agen sbobet , judi online agen sbobet Online , casino Online ,agen Judi casino ,Agen sbobet Terpercaya,judi casino Yang Menyediakan Permainan Judi Sbobet Yang Sangat Diminati Masyarakat Indonesia yang menyediakan pembuatan ID taruhan bola, casino online secara gratis.

Ligaindo55 merupakan salah situs web judi online terpercaya di Indonesia. Hanya dengan 1ID sudah dapat memainkan beragam permainan Judi Online dari SBOBET.

totosemesta.net said...

Menghasilkan uang dalam jumlah banyak dan dengan cara yang mengasyikan yaitu dalam sebuah permainan adalah hal yang sangat menyenangkan. dalam dunia online tentu saja semua bisa dilakukan.

Termasuk dalam menghasilkan uang dalam permainan togel yang terpercaya. situs togel online yang di percaya hanya bisa di temukan di totosemesta.net karena disana banyak menyediakan pasaran seperti TOGEL SINGAPORE , togel HK , togel Sydney , togel Macau , togel Shanghai , togel Hubei & togel Hubei.

Jadi tunggu apalagi segeralah bergabung dengan agen togel online terpercaya yaitu totosemesta.net

galeripoker said...

Permainan poker poker online adalah suatu permainan yang berbasis online untuk sekarang ini sudah sangat menjadi populer bagi para pemain yang ingin bermain judi poker dengan berbasis online. Galeri Poker adalah situs yang menyediakan permainan yang permainan poker yang berbasis online dengan pelayanan yang memuaskan kepada para pemainnya. Galeri Poker adalah situs yang menyediakan permainan poker yang sudah tidak perlu di ragukan lagi oleh para pemain. Disini para pemain juga akan dilayani oleh cs yang sangat berpengalaman dan ramah sehingga para pemain senang untuk bergabung bersama kami.

mbscash said...

Permainan judi online yang sedang berkembang saat ini digemari oleh para pemain yang ingin bermain. Sbobet Mobile sbobet mobile Maka dari itu Mbscash adalah salah satu situs yang berbasis online dengan bekerja sama dengan sbobet mobile memberikan permainan yang cukup memuaskan bagi para pemainnya karena dengan perkembangan teknologi sehingga permainan judi online dapat diakses dengan jaringan internet yang biasa disebut sebagai sbobet mobile. Mbscash sendiri sudah tidak perlu diragukan lagi didalam memberikan pelayanan dan permainan kepada para membernya. Mbscash adalah agen situs judi online yang sangat memperhatikan pelayanan dan kepuasan kepada para membernya didalam bermain di mbscash karena ingin menjadi sbobet mobile nomor satu di Indonesia

Unknown said...

Pekanpoker merupakan Agen Poker Online yang menyediakan berbagai permainan seperti Poker, Ceme, Ceme Keliling, CAPSA, Super10, Omaha Dan domino Qiu Qiu. Selain permainan yang lengkap, Pekanpoker juga menyediakan Customer Servis yang ramah. Raih kemenangan besar bersama Pekanqq.com

Unknown said...

PekanQQ merupakan Situs Poker Online yang menyediakan berbagai permainan seperti Poker, Ceme, Ceme Keliling, CAPSA, Super10, Omaha Dan domino qiu qiu. Mudah Menang, Mudah Jadi Jutawan.

agen sbobet said...

Thanks...
Agen Sbobet

agen sbobet said...

Thank you.....
Sbobet

agen sbobet said...

Good Information..
Sbobet Mobile

Hbo365 said...

Judi Online Hbo365

Hbo365 said...

Hbo365 Poker Online

Hbo365 said...

Casino Online Hbo365

Kho Sàn Gỗ said...

san go | san go cong nghiep  | san go gia re | san nhua vinyl gia re | san nhua hem khoagiay dan tuong | san go ngoai troi

kagura mini said...

AYO DAFTARKAN DIRI KALIAN SEKARANG JUGA DI https://bit.ly/2HsgZcG

www.dewadominokiu . info juga menyediakan bonus yang diantaranya :

NEW GAME BANDARPOKER
RASAKAN SENSASI BERMAIN POKER DAN MENJADI BANDAR !!

- Bonus Referral 10% otomatis langsung ke IDR anda, dan 10% akan dibagikan setiap hari senin
- Bonus Cashback 0,5%
- 300% Fair Play
- NO ROBOT & ADMIN
- Proses Withdraw & Deposit Tercepat
- Di layani dengan 5 bank : Mandiri, BCA, BNI, BRI,Danamon
- Customer Service yang baik, ramah dan cantik tentunya

Dengan deposit minimal Rp.15.000 Anda sudah dapat bermain 8 game tersebut yang tentunya seru dan asik..

untuk info contact dan customer service kami, Anda bisa menghubungi kami di :
LiveChat : Klik Disini
YM : dewadominoqq@yahoo.com
Twitter : @dewadominoqq

Jangan lupa Like Fanpage kami DewaDominoQQ Fanpage