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GIANTS CASTLE CAMP ART (article first published : 2001-03-21)

KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife have taken the bold decision to used original watercolour wild flower paintings to complete the interior décor of the “new” Giant’s Castle camp. The brief to the artists was detailed and fairly challenging. The overall effect of the paintings was to be one of a botanical study (accurate, realistic) with short hand-written notes and sketches worked in and around the illustration of the featured plant species, including additional features such as grasses, San artefacts, insects and animals associated with the plant. The painting would thus be both decorative and informative.

Each unit is named after a family or group of plants indigenous to the area such as Erica, Eucomis, Gladiolus, Moraea with separately framed additional notes on the plants and where they can be found in the gardens and in the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg World Heritage Park. The smaller chalets have two paintings, the cottages have between five and seven, with six large paintings in the attractive new restaurant.

Funds to cover the cost of the artwork and framing was raised from sponsors who are acknowledged on a small plaque in each unit. About 100 out of the 140 paintings were completed and hung in time for the official opening of the upgraded camp on March 10. The remaining paintings will be completed as and when the required flowers come into bloom.

The 19 artists whose work was accepted after a selection process were faced with five pages of scientific names of plants with flowering times attached. Each artist was given a group of plants to paint. Only two of the artists are also botanists, although all had experience in realistic flower painting or botanical art.

With most of the artists living in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, help was provided in terms of locating and identifying the plants by KZN Wildlife botanist Rob Scott-Shaw and botanical artist and author Elsa Pooley.

KZN Wildlife staff, farmers and friends were involved in helping to find and transport the plants. Then there was the problem of having them correctly identified at a herbarium and keeping them alive long enough so that the artists could complete their detailed paintings. Most of the artists collected sketches in the wild at Giants Castle although the final detailed work required needed studio conditions.

Finding suitable material to annotate the paintings meant contacting universities and museums for material and information on pollinators and other creatures. All notes had to be checked with KZN Wildlife before being added to the painting to ensure scientific accuracy.

The KZN artists involved are Tessa Dean, Douglas Goode, Mary Greening, Anne Haselgrove, Shirley Hill, Pat Johnstone, James le Roux, Anne Maclean, Penny Nicholson, Elsa Pooley, Mavis Scott, Sandy Slater, Jeanette Stead, Erica Stevenson, Chatelaine Tayler, Joan Walker, Ingrid Weiersby, Judy Wheeler, Muriel Zonneveld.

Once the commission is completed later in 2001, a portfolio will be produced so that visitors to the camp can see all the paintings. By this time, they will illustrate a total of about 160 species of plants and it is hoped that reproductions will be made available for sale in the Giant’s Castle curio shop.

Some sponsorship is still required and if anyone is interested in this project, please contact Dr George Hughes on (033) 845-1999.




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