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TONY GROGAN’S CAPE TOWN SKETCHBOOK (article first published : 2002-12-9)

Cape Town and its environs have been a popular subject for artists for more than three centuries. The latest contribution to this old and honourable tradition is this book of drawings by Tony Grogan, who has been the cartoonist of the Cape Times for the past 28 years.

Many South African cities, including Durban, have great natural and historical charm but Cape Town stands alone for many reasons: the mountains and the ocean, the forests and the vineyards, a recorded history and an architectural heritage reaching back into the seventeenth century, and an extraordinarily cosmopolitan population.

All of these aspects are portrayed in Tony Grogan’s lovely book. He has the cartoonist’s gift of capturing a scene or a mood in a few deft lines and his humour is always gentle and sympathetic, with a special place for the odd characters who abound at the Cape: penny whistle players, vagrants, fruit vendors, flower sellers, grape pickers, political protesters.

His drawings cover the city centre and Table Mountain and the sea, and some places further beyond, including Robben Island. Adding greatly to the charm of the book is the artist’s dry commentary, providing brief facts and often quoting the people whom he is drawing. My favourite note is the one accompanying a picture of an elderly newspaper seller. It runs like this:

Goolam the news vendor is a familiar figure at his news stand. He has been selling newspapers for 52 years and tells me that he is tired of it.

“Cape Town is not what it used to be”, he observes.

“How did it used to be?”

“Like it used to be”, he says mysteriously.

Mysterious or not, many of us old Kaapenaars know just what he means. Tony Grogan’s Cape Town Sketchbook is published by Don Nelson and retails at R244. - Michael Green




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