Karoo Heartland Galleries and Museums

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Bethesda Arts Centre in Nieu Bethesda

Bethesda Arts Centre

Galleries and Museum in Nieu Bethesda

You ate dust on the winding Karoo roads getting to the beautiful dorp of Nieu Bethesda? You visited Miss Helen's Owl House? Now just around the corner from the Owl House is a fascinating stop - the Bethesda Arts Centre. Here you will receive a warm welcome and a full tour. Catch a rehearsal or a starlit performance in the open air theatre.The Courtyard Theatre began its life in 2002 with a play from a visiting company about domestic abuse. The play, Behind Closed Doors, was followed by an animated discussion. The theatre was officially opened in January 2003 with a live reading of new work by Athol Fugard.After two successful productions – The Rainbull and The Conference of Birds – playing to packed houses in the Centre’s own Courtyard Theatre, the Bethesda Theatre Company was established. They have performed at the Grahamstown Festival as well as at various schools and nearby theatres. Members of the Company are encouraged to learn all facets of theatre, including writing, directing, theatre design and stage management.The Gallery A conversation between Kudus, San dancers around the fire, the extraordinary mass of rock that forms the gateway to Nieu Bethesda – the artists from the Bethesda Arts Centre are as varied and individual in subject matter as they are in style.From Hartlief’s striking animal prints to Booysen’s linear, timeless landscapes or Swiers’s spirited snapshots of daily life, each of these artists has captured something of the parched land and dusty Karoo town of Nieu Bethesda.In all of these upcoming artists, despite their varying age and experience, is a feeling of Africa, in all its richness and variety, and a sense of their place within it.Centre artists can exhibit and sell their work in the Centre’s own gallery. Income from sale of art goes directly to the artists, in many cases making it possible for them to support their families. Where can I stay? Dive under the quilts in the magical Bethesda Tower Accommodation.

Helen Martins Museum in Nieu Bethesda

Helen Martins Museum

Galleries and Museum in Nieu Bethesda

In this small museum, the Owl House Foundation pays tribute to a remarkable woman, Helen Martins. Years after her tragic death, her passion and art still inspire thousands of people that read about her work and visit her Owl House Mecca. Here the visitor can see old archive photos, letters and documents of Helen Martins.

Hester Rupert Art Museum in Graaff-Reinet

Hester Rupert Art Museum

Galleries and Museum in Graaff-Reinet

The Hester Rupert Art Museum was opened in July 1966 and declared a national monument in 1968. It holds a collection of over a hundred artworks donated by renowned South African artists. The museum is the fifth oldest church building in South Africa. It was built in 1821 as a Dutch Reformed Church and was nearly demolished by a petroleum company in 1965. Dr Anton Rupert, son of Graaff-Reinet, entered into negotiations with the petroleum company and convinced them not to burn the building. To show their gratitude, the Council named the museum in honour of Rupert's late mother.

Nieu Ceramics Studio and Gallery in Nieu Bethesda

Nieu Ceramics Studio and Gallery

Galleries and Museum in Nieu Bethesda

Charmaine and Martin Haines are established artists on the South African ceramics scene. Charmaine uses both abstract and stylised symbols and motives within her speciality, figurative clay. Martin produces works of art in the form of flatware, as well as tiles, mainly inspired by the early European porcelain designs featuring hues of blue and white, called Delftware.

Owl House in Nieu Bethesda

Owl House

Galleries and Museum in Nieu Bethesda

Once upon a time in the tiny Karoo dorp of Nieu Bethesda... Helen Martins lay ill in bed, with the moon shining in through the window, and considered how dull and grey her life had become. She resolved, there and then, that she would strive to bring light and colour into her life. That simple decision, to embellish her environment, was to grow into an obsessive urge to express her deepest feelings, her dreams and her desires. And so the the Owl House began.Starting with the interior of her house, she used the emblems of sun-faces, owls and other images. This is all set against a luminous backdrop of walls and ceilings coated with elaborate patterns of crushed glass imbedded in bands of brightly coloured paint.Over twelve years, she and her assistant, Koos Malgas, created fthe hundreds of sculptures and relief figures that crowd the 'Camel Yard' and cover the walls of the house. Her favourite animals, owls and camels, predominate, but all manner of real and fantastical beings are to be found. A procession of shepherds and wise men lead a vast, almost life-size camel train toward an 'East' as designated by Helen Martins, and integrates Christianity with her fascination for the Orient.A stoic double-faced owl watches over the arched entranceway from the street, significantly barricaded by a tall mesh fence and a stand of tall Queen-of-the-Night cacti. Like the elaborately bottle-skirted hostesses within the yard, this arch must have been intended to welcome the visitor into her 'world', but the fence speaks plainly of an increasingly troubled relationship between Helen Martins and the outside world.

The James Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre in Nieu Bethesda

The James Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre

Galleries and Museum in Nieu Bethesda

The James Kitching Fossil Centre lets visitors discover a landscape that forms an integral part in world history, specifically Earth's extinction event 250 million years ago. Take a half-hour stroll with a guide to the nearby Gats River bed and find your own real fossils.

The Marianne McDonald Theatre in Nieu Bethesda

The Marianne McDonald Theatre

Galleries and Museum in Nieu Bethesda

The Marianne McDonald Theatre opened its doors in 2004 as a place where the community can share their creative work. Marianne herself was Professor of Theatre and Classics at the University of California, San Diego and Athol Fugard. The theatre has now been donated to the Owl House and is available for rental.

Ware on Earth Ceramic Gallery and Studio in Nieu Bethesda

Ware on Earth Ceramic Gallery and Studio

Galleries and Museum in Nieu Bethesda

Ceramicist Charmaine Haines and her husband studio potter Martin Haines have created themselves a wonderful studio after settling in Nieu-Bethesda. They often exhibit all over South Africa but guests are always welcome to pop in and see how they create their beautiful ceramics in the studio.

Galleries and Museums near Karoo Heartland

*Distances are shown as the crow flies and are not necessarily the actual travelling distance.

Schreiner House Museum in Cradock

Schreiner House Museum

Galleries and Museum in Cradock(6.1 km from Karoo Heartland)

South African author, pacifist and political activist, Olive Schreiner, is best known for her novel, The Story of an African Farm. The book was first published in 1883 in London and quickly became a best-seller, despite causing controversy over its frank portrayal of freethought, feminism, premarital sex and pregnancy out of wedlock and transvestitism.The Schreiner House Museum is one of Cradock’s interesting and attractive historical buildings. From 1868 till 1870 it was home to Olive and three of her siblings. Her elder brother, Theo, was principal of the “Government Aided School” in Cradock at the time. The other two siblings were her elder sister Henrietta and her younger brother Will, later Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. Today the Schreiner House is a National Monument containing Olive’s personal library, exhibitions depicting her life and those of her siblings, and copies of all the books she wrote. There is also a bookshop selling a wide variety of books, including Schreiner’s most celebrated work, The Story of an African Farm, as well as other books by and about her.

The Olive Schreiner Museum in Cradock

The Olive Schreiner Museum

Galleries and Museum in Cradock(6.3 km from Karoo Heartland)

The Schreiner House is one of Cradock's most interesting and old buildings. It was home to the world-renowned author Olive Schreiner between 1868 and 1870. In the museum there is a display of Schreiner's personal library, pictorial exhibitions of her life and copies of all the books she wrote. There is also a wide variety of books available for sale, including Schreiner's most celebrated work, The Story of an African Farm.

The Great Fish River Museum in Cradock

The Great Fish River Museum

Galleries and Museum in Cradock(13.7 km from Karoo Heartland)

The Great Fish River Museum depicts the earlier history of the Eastern Province pioneers from 1840 to 1900. The building was constructed in 1849 as a Dutch Reformed Church Parsonage, and declared a National Monument in 1971. There is an exhibition of a traditional coach house housing an ox wagon, a Cape cart and a four-horse cart. Outside is an example of a parsonage garden of 100 years ago. In the main building there is a display of the history of Cradock, the 1820 settlers and Voortrekkers, and a photographic demonstration of Nelson Mandela's life.


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