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    The mention of Newlands, near Cape Town in South Africa, automatically means the famed Newlands Rugby Stadium to many devoted rugby fans around the world. But Newlands has much more going for it than rugby. There's the world famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Newlands Brewery, The Barnard Gallery, Newlands Forest and the legendary Foresters Arms, one of the oldest pubs in Cape Town, known to locals as Forries.

    It also boasts one of the best kept secrets of the area, The Montebello Design Centre. The non-profit centre features arts and crafts studios, workshops, a popular cafe all on a historic property, the Papenboom Estate. The aim is to promote local arts and crafts, plus, they hope that by teaching the artists how to handle the business side of their craft, this will lead to growth and generate job creation.

    The homestead and stables were built in 1764, then the property went through various owners until Maximillian Michaelis purchased the estate in 1919. His son, Cecil, a prominent clay artist experimented with various clays to produce a local porcelain and was instrumental in the now flourishing ceramics industry in South Africa. Although some of the estate was expropriated for the South African College School, Cecil Michaelis managed to save the current property, including the beautiful stable buildings and adjoining wooded area.

    One of the stable studios in the impressive Mogalakwena Craft Art exhibit. It is bigger than the other stables because it was the birthing stable, reserved for a mother and her colt.

    The beautifully maintained old stables house the fascinating Mogalakwena Craft Art (MCA) established by Dr Elbe Coetsee. They work primarily with women in the rural Limpopo region of South Africa. The women use their creative skills to produce fine work collected around the world, the direct consequence is employment, self-respect and growth within the community. MCA's logo explains it as "Experience the Soul of Africa." If you are lucky, Dr Coetsee will be there, she is a fountain of knowledge with regards to SA craft.

    The gallery of ceramic artist John Bauer faces a peaceful courtyard.

    A short walk down the passage from the stables leads to David Krut Projects. They feature an impressive array of art and design books. An excellent art gallery features revolving shows and boasts an outstanding exhibit of work by the world renown South African artist, William Kentridge. They also host an artist in residence program and are also committed to providing support for arts educators, so they run a teacher support service and library-building service. Plus they offer regular educational workshops and events.

    Artist Lesley Charnock talks about her vibrant paintings of local scenes
    in her studio & gallery
    Further down the passage leads to John Bauer Ceramics studio, a treasure trove of wonderful pottery.
    On the car park side, local artist, Lesley Charnock, showcases her vibrant, colorful paintings in her studio and gallery. She is a mine of information on the local arts scene and offers a range of her works from large originals to prints and note cards.

    Young artist, Sizwe, has his studio out doors and in a traditionally shaped hut. "It's the shop under the oak tree," Sizwe notes. He tells poignant and interesting stories about his work, like his Blue Man painting. The colour of your skin still is an issue in today's world, so he wanted to show humans as non-racial, thus he painted the man blue. That way "he is everyone and no one can hate him or be afraid of him," explains Sizwe.

    Artist Sizwe outside his outdoor studio hut with a blue man painting inside.

    Have lunch at the Gardener's Cottage, the tables are set under magnificent trees - and here's a hint, they are always heavily booked. But, don't be put off by all the tables with a reserved sign. If you go just before lunch time and say you will be out before the first booking, you can get a table. I am not sure why they don't give times on the reservation signs because I am sure a lot of people leave without asking.

    There is so much more to Montebello than these few examples. This is a place to take your time, talk with the artists, delight in the historic buildings and take home unique gifts. There are also workshops on offer if you feel the urge to dabble with paint. Definitely give yourself a full day.

    The outdoor setting of the Gardener's Cottage cafe is shaded by lovely big trees.


    Business information:

    http://montebello.co.za
    http://mogalakwena.com
    http://davidkrut.com/
    http://johnbauerart.com
    http://lesleycharnock.com
    sizweart@twitter.com




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    Public Disclosure-- Please Read
    I recently learned of a FTC law requiring web sites to let their readers know if any of the stories are "sponsored" or compensated.  American Roads and Global Highways' feature writers are professional travel writers. As such we are frequently invited on press trips, also called fam trips. Most of the articles here are results of these trips. On these trips most of our lodging, dining, admissions fees and often plane fare are covered by the city or firm hosting the trip. It is an opportunity to visit places we might not otherwise be able to visit and bring you a great story. However, no one tells us what to write about those places. All opinions are 100% those of the author of that feature column.  

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