Art in unusal places

I was recently invited to the opening of an art residency at a hotel. The hotel was the Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in London. The Art Movement, an art consultancy, has taken up residence in the hotel and will in their programme showcase some of the world’s finest contemporary artists within the hotel lobby and Lowndes Bar & Kitchen Restaurant. The first artist being Chuck Elliott. The aim being that guests can view the art and purchase. It’s intended to be a new way of displaying art as an alternative to a gallery. The Art Movement want to demystify the process of acquiring original art.

blast/first/fracturerefract by chuck elliott

Chuck Elliot Blast/FIRST/fractureRefract . Taken from artnet.com

I quite like this idea of creating new ‘art galleries’ accessible to people who maybe wouldn’t wander into an art gallery. I like it when art is accessible to all people, I think that is why I am so drawn and interested by graffiti and street art. It’s a way for people to express themselves on an open canvas to a wide audience and get them thinking. Street art is something that I always look for when I am abroad as it gives you another layer to the culture and the people of the country you are in.

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Amazing use of space for art in Soweto

Amazing use of space for art in Soweto

One of my favourite cities for Street Art is Berlin. This is a city rich with art and it has a long history of expressing itself through art – just look at the East Side Gallery – the remnants of the Berlin Wall. It is showcase of politics, oppression, freedom and culture. Its one of my favourite galleries. But along with the wall, the streets and buildings of Berlin are littered with graffiti and art all showing different thoughts and feelings.

Its not only the East Side Gallery that show cases the artistic talents of the city but all surfaces, no matter their height. The sides of apartment buildings are painted to look like gardens, a wall full of sunflowers or words of expression.

Its not only the East Side Gallery that show cases the artistic talents of the city but all surfaces, no matter their height. The sides of apartment buildings are painted to look like gardens, a wall full of sunflowers or words of expression.

The East Side Gallery, the worlds longest open air art gallery.

The East Side Gallery, the worlds longest open air art gallery.

Of course here in London and the UK we are not short of street art. Just look at Banksy, he made a name from creating art, originally on the streets of Bristol, and then further a field. In the eyes of some he is just a graffiti artist or vandal while others are willing to pay millions for an original Banksy. Wandering around Bristol and spotting a Banksy is part of the fun of going to visit the lovely city.

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art

Here in London of course we are spoilt… yes I am not going to deny it most of the graffiti out there is just tagging and pretty non descript but then you go to somewhere like Shoreditch which is starting to become like a living art gallery, around every corner is an artistic surprise, big and small. I follow quite a few people on Instagram but I particularly like following Anissa Helou as she is always putting up new pieces she finds wandering around Shoreditch – I can admire the art wherever I am thanks to her pictures! The art has become so popular that tours are popping up to show it all off.

Shoreditch art

Shoreditch Street Art

More recently I have been introduced to an art project in Cuba Fusterlandia,created by Jose Fuster, known as the Picasso of the Caribbean. As you enter the Havana suburb you are met by block after block of mosaic creations. It’s a suburb that has been turned into a living art project and encourages the inhabitants to express themselves through their houses, gates and gardens! This is definitely something that I am very excited to explore when I go to Cuba in January!

Stepping away from paint into the world of sculpture there are so many places that are now being used as galleries outside of the norm. I like the idea of sculpture parks, like the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. Putting a piece of sculpture in the context of nature, where the elements can get to it. Of course this is not art you can buy but it can be appreciated, and your perception and feelings towards it are always going to be different depending on the weather. You are more likely to rush around when its cold and wet than if it was a warm sunny day where you can linger and explore all the aspects of it. Sculpture parks and walks allow you to go back time after time and experience the same things in different ways, something that isn’t really possible in a climate controlled museum or gallery.

P1020881 P1020900There is so much creativity out there that its hard to contain it all within the four walls of an art gallery – of course do not tell that to all those boutique private galleries that fill the streets of London and other cities a like trying to sell the wares of artists. As long as it isn’t hurting anyone I do not see a problem with using new spaces to express yourself through art. I hope to keep seeing art popping up in unusual places. I encourage you to go out and find art in unusal places. Find something and keep going back and see how the elements effect your perceptions of it. Go and explore art – I dare you!

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South Africa – Cape Town

When you arrive into Cape Town the landscape is dominated by one thing, Table Mountain! It’s ever present when you are staying there and the views from it are beautiful. Situated on the coast of the Western Cape, the ‘Mother City’ as it is known due to its historical role in the development of modern South Africa, has golden beaches, a national park at the heart of the city and is multicultural with many stories to tell.

There is so much to see and do on the Cape Peninsula, you are surrounded by history, a beautiful national park, wildlife and of course the winelands. I had just over four days in the Cape and it was not enough. This is a destination where you could quite happily spend a week or two exploring the beaches, walking through the various parts of the national park and of course head to the winelands. Instead of rambling on about it, here are some of my favourite photos, hopefully they will give you an idea of just have stunning it is. I have fallen for Cape Town and will most definitely be returning to carry on exploring and getting more of its fantastic food and wine!

Cape Town

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a fabulous development of shops, restaurants and entertainment

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a fabulous development of shops, restaurants and entertainment

For something a little more challenging why not walk up Table Mountain rather than get the cable car - not for the faint hearted as its steep and hot but the views are well worth it - Cape Town at dawn!

For something a little more challenging why not walk up Table Mountain rather than get the cable car – not for the faint hearted as its steep and hot but the views are well worth it – Cape Town at dawn!

Cape Town and the ever dominering Table Mountain from the ferry to Robben Island

Cape Town and the ever domineering Table Mountain from the ferry to Robben Island

Cape Town is full of architectual diversity thanks to its colonial history and more recently becoming the world design capital for 2015

Cape Town is full of architectural diversity thanks to its colonial history and more recently becoming the world design capital for 2015

While in Cape Town we went on a walk around one of the townships, it was incredibly eye opening to meet the people who lived there, see how things are and how they are changing.

While in Cape Town we went on a walk around one of the townships, it was incredibly eye-opening to meet the people who lived there, see how things are and how they are changing.

One of the ingenious ways that people are making life better for themselves in the townships is by using old shipping containers and turning them into shops and business, such as hairdressers, clothes shops and street food venders.

One of the ingenious ways that people are making life better for themselves in the townships is by using old shipping containers and turning them into shops and business, such as hairdressers, clothes shops and street food venders.

night time at the V&A Waterfront

night-time at the V&A Waterfront

One of the best things about Cape Town is that you are only short taxi rides from the next town. Just around the corner from Cape Town is Camps Bay, a fantastic spot to go and watch the sun set. There are sea front restaurants and bars a plenty to enjoy it from.

One of the best things about Cape Town is that you are only short taxi rides from the next town. Just around the corner from Cape Town is Camps Bay, a fantastic spot to go and watch the sun set. There are sea front restaurants and bars a plenty to enjoy it from.

Around the Cape Peninsula

The scenery around the Cape is just beautiful, so hard to capture on camera but I tried, this is up the road from Houts Bay.

The scenery around the Cape is just beautiful, so hard to capture on camera but I tried, this is up the road from Houts Bay.

One of the highlights of the Cape Penninsular are the terribly cute Cape Penguins at Boulders

One of the highlights of the Cape Peninsula are the terribly cute Cape Penguins at Boulders

so many penguins, so little time!

so many penguins, so little time!

The Cape of Good Hope!

The Cape of Good Hope!

The beautiful beach at the Cape of Good Hope

The beautiful beach at the Cape of Good Hope

The rugged coastline of Cape Point, just beautiful

The rugged coastline of Cape Point, just beautiful

The Cape Penninsular- where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic

The Cape Peninsula where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic

The Winelands

Beautiful Colonial Stellenbosch

Beautiful Colonial Stellenbosch

One of the best things about Stellenbosch, other than the wine were the sculptures that were dotted around the streets, an interesting way of exhibiting art and a great insight into the minds of young south african art students

One of the best things about Stellenbosch, other than the wine were the sculptures that were dotted around the streets, an interesting way of exhibiting art and a great insight into the minds of young south african art students

The beautiful landscape of the Winelands of the Western Cape

The beautiful landscape of the Winelands of the Western Cape

wine tasting in Franschhoek

wine tasting in Franschhoek

Blue skies, stunning landscape and wine tasting, this is the place for it!

Blue skies, stunning landscape and wine tasting, this is the place for it!

I very much recommend a trip to Cape Town!

This was the end of my South African journey, and I can say I fell in love with the country and its people who are all so welcoming. I will most definitely be going back!!

South Africa – The Panoramic Route

Its been a while since my last South Africa post, I thought I would give you all a break! One thing that amazed me most about South Africa was it’s ever changing landscape, there is just so much to see that its impossible to do it all in one trip. Leaving our lodge on the edge of Kruger we travelled to Hazyview which is further south but still on the edge of Kruger and used by many people as their base for safaris. We used Hazyview and our lovely hotel, the Hippo Hollow as a base to explore the region and of course the world famous Panoramic route.

We had been blessed up to this point with great weather, however that all changed the morning we were due to head out onto the Panoramic Route – the heavens opened and it didn’t look like it was going to stop!!

As we left Hazyview behind and wound our way around the hills and climbed higher, even through the rain soaked windows we could see the amazing scenery outside – deep valleys, thick forests and stunning waterfalls, we were a long way from the flat savannahs we had experienced while on safari. On a clear sunny day this would have been a photographers paradise.

Our first stop was Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world. As we stepped out of the bus to make the short walk to the viewing areas it suddenly stopped raining, we couldn’t believe it! As you approach the viewing areas the sheer vastness of the canyon becomes apparent, its beautiful. You feel like you are not in the modern world but this is the landscape for some prehistoric era. This was certainly the place to just sit on a rock and take in the majesty of your surroundings.

Panoramic of Blyde River Canyon - the rain stopped just long enough to get a couple of photos in

Panoramic of Blyde River Canyon – the rain stopped just long enough to get a couple of photos in

Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon

This is of course the ideal place for great photos, and we ladies did not hesitate to get some posed photos in while the sun was trying to come out.

Selfies at Blyde River Canyon, of course!

Selfies at Blyde River Canyon, of course!

Now of course the Canyon is stunning but it’s not the only stopping spot on the Panoramic Route. Our next call was Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Now I had no idea what we were going to see when I heard the name, to me potholes are the things in the road that cause all sorts of trouble! However when you see these potholes you are in awe of the sheer power that water has to shape rock. The power of the river has over centuries formed amazing rock formations and pools in the striking red rock.

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Now I would have loved to have filled this blog with fabulous panoramic views of the valleys and scenery we passed but unfortunately the rain came back and the rest of my photos are pretty grey and miserable.  The weather got so bad that we had to skip Gods Window! The Panoramic Route is definitely worth a visit as it gives you a whole different view on the country but also lets you delve into its history and see what life was like back during the days of the prospectors and gold rush.

The chance to go on an elephant ride - amazing!

The chance to go on an elephant ride – amazing!

While we were in Hazyview we got the opportunity to go on an elephant experience with Elephant Whispers. I have had the amazing chance to ride elephants and play with them before but in Asia, so the chance to get up close to an African elephant was a definite must. We spent about an hour learning about the elephants, getting to feed them, touch them ( the back of their ears are SO warm and soft!), it was truly unique. After that we went for a short ride, not the best I have done, but the first timers loved it.

Standing between an elephants legs.... not in the least bit scary!

Standing between an elephants legs…. not in the least bit scary!

One thing that we all enjoyed was the Boma Dinner that our hotel put on. We had an amazing traditional dance show which was so high energy, I don’t know how they kept going for so long! I know it’s quite a ‘tourist’ thing to do, but it was really fun!

Boma Dinner - traditional South African dancing and music- the energy these dancers have is amazing!

Boma Dinner – traditional South African dancing and music- the energy these dancers have is amazing!

Panoramic Route - South Africa

Fabulous dancing!

It’s such a shame we had such terrible weather the day we were due to drive the Panoramic Route but we still got to see some of it and it did not disappoint. Spectacular scenery that just made me further fall in love with South Africa. Having Hazyview as a base was great as we got to further explore and enjoy a bit of the culture. We were here for three nights which was enough time as we had already done our safari. Next and final stop on the adventure was Cape Town!

South Africa – Kruger National Park

When I found out I was going to South Africa for work to accompany one of our trips the thing I was most excited about, and I think like a lot of people are, was visiting Kruger National Park and hopefully seeing all the fabulous animals. The drive from Johannesburg took about 7 hours but the views were worth it as you climb higher and then descend through the Drakensberg Mountains. As it got later the clouds descended and swept over the top of the mountains creating the most amazing scenery – of course my little hand-held wasn’t able to capture the majesty of all of this!

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and covers an area of 19,633 square kilometres. The park is home to all big five and also has more species of large mammals than any other African Game Reserve (at 147 species). We were staying at the Timbavati Safari Lodge which is located on its own private reserve and meant that we had quite a few animal visitors in the lodge grounds while we were there, including warthogs, wildebeest and giraffes. It was a lovely place to stay, a small Lodge which had a real warm family feel to it! Waking up to find wildebeest outside your bed room window is certainly not something I will be forgetting for a while!

We spent an entire day in Kruger National Park with our amazing guide Prince (I spent the day singing Purple Rain in my head!) – how he spotted things in the bush is a mystery to me, he must have binoculars for eyes. Within a couple of minutes we had spotted lions and a leopard, both a distance off but still amazing. From then on we started ticking off animals and birds like they were going out of fashion. Now of course we were incredibly lucky as our guide told us, you can go on game drives and see very little and that is why I would recommend at least a couple of days of game drives to make sure you see everything. The next day we went on a bushwalk around the lodge and tracked a young male giraffe which was incredible and in the afternoon we went for an evening / sunset game drive in one of the private reserves near by and again got incredibly lucky with everything we saw.

Blue skies over Kruger National Park

Blue skies over Kruger National Park

I could go on and on about how much I loved my time in Kruger but I won’t, instead I have selected a few of my favourite photos. I won’t be winning Wildlife Photographer of the Year anytime soon but hopefully they will inspire you to go and see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat.

We saw lions..... no we did really... its like where's wally, where's the lion!!

We saw lions….. no we did really… its like where’s wally, where’s the lion!!

Yes I am a wildebeest just hanging out with some Impala

Yes I am a wildebeest just hanging out with some Impala

 

the somewhat common but always stunning Impala

the somewhat common but always stunning Impala

one of my favourite shots!

one of my favourite shots!

We came across these four giraffes and they were just beautiful to watch, two were playing with each other swinging their necks around - amazing to just sit and watch

We came across these four giraffes and they were just beautiful to watch, two were playing with each other swinging their necks around – amazing to just sit and watch

They may not be the prettiest of animals but baboons are just brilliant to watch, they are so social.

They may not be the prettiest of animals but baboons are just brilliant to watch, they are so social.

My only decent bird photo, the camera doesn't do its bright colouring justice.

My only decent bird photo, the camera doesn’t do its bright colouring justice.

spotting the little five as well as the big, a leopard tortoise

spotting the little five as well as the big, a leopard tortoise

The waterbuck, so elegant.

The waterbuck, so elegant.

Pumba!

Pumba!

Yes more zebra but they are so fun!

Yes more zebra but they are so fun!

My king of the jungle, the elephant - I never get bored of seeing them in the wild

My king of the jungle, the elephant – I never get bored of seeing them in the wild

Sunset over Kruger National Park

Sunset over Kruger National Park

Good night Kruger!

Good night Kruger!

 

Kruger and the private game reserves are such special places and should be preserved and protected. We were in a fortunate position that later on in the trip we met and had a talk from a Kruger National Park vet and this was illuminating for me. It was interesting to hear his views on animal population control, the selling of animals to private reserves but also on poaching. It certainly opened up a lively debate about the ethics behind rhino farming as a measure to control poaching.

 

Our learning continued when we went to visit the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. It really hit us all about poaching, that even inside the grounds of the centre rhinos are killed and their horns taken. We came across two rhino’s whose horns had been taken but they were left alive and taken to the centre to live. There is no other way of describing it as just sad, something so central to this animal taken!

the saddest thing, rhino's poached for their horn!

the saddest thing, rhino’s poached for their horn!

 

One of Hoedspruits main aims is the breeding of cheetahs and releasing them into the wild as they too are quickly dropping in numbers. They are such a beautiful creature and its easy to think of them as something soft and cuddly until you see those teeth and they get their claws out – respect right there! They also have a successful wild dog breeding programme.

The glorious cheetah

The glorious cheetah

African Wild Dogs

African Wild Dogs

 

 

It wasn’t only the wildlife that we got to see in Kruger National Park. We also got the chance to go on a walk through a Shangaan village which was very interesting and allowed the opportunity to really see what life was life for people in rural Mpumalanga. We met with people, spoke with them and played with the children. They have so little but have such big hearts, they are some of the most welcoming people I have ever met on my travels.

 

On our walk through the village, all the children were so curious but so friendly

On our walk through the village, all the children were so curious but so friendly

Hanging outside the local tavern of course

Hanging outside the local tavern of course

We had a little nosey in the local tavern, the stark walls only decoration were these doodles of beer logos

We had a quite nosey in the local tavern, the stark walls only decoration were these doodles of beer logos

Who need the latest playstation when you have this bad boy to play with!

Who need the latest playstation when you have this bad boy to play with!

Inside the local shop in the village

Inside the local shop in the village

Inside the local shop in the village

Inside the local shop in the village

The local witchdoctor!

The local witchdoctor!

Going on safari has definitely given me the bug and its something I want to do more and hopefully I will get the opportunity to go back to South Africa but also to the Masai Mara or Serengeti as there is such a wealth of wildlife in both. I have recently been told about a new app called Herdtacker that allows you to track the herds in the Masai so it would be interesting to see it in action! Its amazing how technology can be used! Hopefully it will also help or be a starting point for helping rangers keep an eye on the animals as well and protect them from poachers!

Seeing these amazing creatures in their natural habitat is breath-taking – I do need a better camera though!

 

 

South Africa – Johannesburg

I tend to leave a city with a set opinion of whether I liked it or not and would go back but Johannesburg has left me perplexed. Did I like it as a city, I just cannot decided!

In fairness I was only there for a couple of days and one of those was spent out in Soweto but usually I can form an opinion by then – instant judgement. I like a walkable city, one where you can stroll around and find hidden gems and explore but you cannot really do this in Johannesburg as everything is so spread out and everyone drives everywhere.

One thing that I did like about Johannesburg was the chance to learn. I think like most people of my generation we know a little bit about Apartheid but we were too young to really know what was going on at the time and when I was of an age to understand Apartheid had ended. My time in Johannesburg has allowed me to really learn and understand the history of South Africa. I definitely left the city and the country more educated.

First stop on our trip was stopping by the house where Nelson Mandela died. Outside the house were piles of stones that had been painted with messages and pictures by people who had wanted to leave something, a thank you or get well while Nelson Mandela was ill. They were such simple gestures but one of the most moving things I had ever seen. While we were taking photos, a family pulled up in their car and the father got out and planted a small tree in the garden outside the walls of the house. Even now the people of South Africa keep thanking him for what he did for them. Over my time in South Africa I was to realise just how important Nelson Mandela was to the people. It is very hard coming from the UK to understand how people can feel so connected to a man, a politician!

Messages left outside Nelson Mandela's house

Messages left outside Nelson Mandela’s house

From Mandela’s house we moved onto the Apartheid Museum and here we started our education. The museum is set on a hill that gives you great views of downtown Johannesburg, set in a peaceful garden its a stunning setting to get people thinking. As you enter your tickets are labelled either white or non-white and here your education in segregation begins. Depending on your ticket you enter the museum through different doors and passageways.

Outside the Apartheid Museum

Outside the Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Musuem

The Apartheid Museum

Inside the museum ( allow at least a good couple of hours to really explore) there is much to see and read. It takes you through the history of the country and lead up to Apartheid and then into its history and laws. When we visited there was an exhibition about Mandela, but this may only be temporary. The museum uses the power of architecture, word and image to convey the history and struggles of the country. It was definitely moving and a great way to educate people.

Apatheid Museum

Apartheid Museum

Our second day took us further into South Africa’s history by visiting Soweto, one of Johannesburg’s townships that was created during Apartheid. I think like most people I went to Soweto with an image in my mind of what it was going to be like. You hear all the stories on TV and the news about violence and it gets a reputation. Now I am sure there are some undesirable parts and there is a level of crime and violence but we didn’t see any of this and to be honest we were on a tourist trip so it’s not like our guide would walk us into areas where there would be trouble. However, everyone we met was lovely and from what I saw Soweto was really turning itself into a pleasant place to be.

As you drive past Baragwanath Hospital ( once first, now third biggest hospital in the world) you pass the Soweto taxi rank. Getting closer to the centre life seems to get better, but on the outskirts there are still so many people living in unofficial houses – shanty towns. Charities, like the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the government are building houses and parks to make the area better but it will take quite a few more years before everyone has a proper house to live in. Your heart really does sink when you see these shanty towns made from corrugated iron squashed together, no running water and makeshift electricity. You really appreciate what you have.

the 'unofficial' housing in Soweto

the ‘unofficial’ housing in Soweto

Life on the streets of Soweto

Life on the streets of Soweto

Amazing use of space for art in Soweto

Amazing use of space for art in Soweto

 

The main reason for going to Soweto is this is where Nelson Mandela lived and where Winnie Mandela lived during his imprisonment. It is also the site of many protests and tragedies during Apartheid. The Mandela house is now a museum and definitely worth a visit to learn a bit more about the ANC and what went on in Soweto. The other main museum Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial. He was the first child to be killed on 16th June 1976, when the children of Soweto marched in protest for being taught only in Afrikaans. The museum is cleverly put together through film and first hand accounts (more than 400 people died in the uprising), by those in the protest and the police. The most moving thing was our tour guide who was present during the march. He was shot but the bullet passed through him killing his cousin. It was a privilege to hear this first hand account but also hear about how someone who lived through Apartheid managed to get an education through underground schooling and has spent his adult life trying to educate tourists but also help charities within townships in both Johannesburg and Cape Town.

A portraid of Nelson Mandela in the Mandela House Museum

A portrait of Nelson Mandela in the Mandela House Museum

Mandela House, an ANC Poster

Mandela House, an ANC Poster

 

So much tragedy and sadness filled the history of Johannesburg and South Africa but our entire time in the city and the rest of the country we came across some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Even though they had lived through so much and had so little the people we met found a way to smile. I may not have fallen in love with Johannesburg the city, but I certainly did with the people and their optimism for a better future.

Art in Soweto, bringing the place alive.

Art in Soweto, bring the place alive.

From Johannesburg we left and headed to the place I was most excited about in South Africa, Kruger National Park!