Post # 20. On inspiration.

Every year at the end of June the South African National Arts Festival comes to Grahamstown for ELEVEN DAYS OF AMAZ!NG. That’s the festival’s tagline and it is truly amazing how this small town is transformed. Nevertheless, every year I am surprised and delighted at the feast of art and inspiration that pops up around us.

The festival started yesterday and I have spent two lunch hours looking at some of the art exhibitions. There are so many exhibitions that it is hard to fit it all in, but fit it in I must because it is such a feast of energy and inspiration.

Of course I honed in on textile art and visited Retha Buitendach’s exhibition Metamorf today. I will return over the weekend when there will be more time to stare at her remarkable creations which include sculpture, fabric art, assemblage and digital art prints.

Blue Housefly by Retha Buitendach
Shwe-Shwe Knopie Spinnekop
Button Spider by Retha Buitendach

These insects are fashioned mainly from shweshwe, the South African fabric that I wrote about previously in Post #10. What a glorious way to display the many and varied patterns and colours in the range.

The entry on Beitendach in the festival programme is almost as enticing as the work itself:

A multi-legged, multi-media exhibition. New insects are discovered every day. See a new cohort of hyper-evolved species created by artist Retha Buitendach. Cyber-hybrids, Bizarre bug plants, Entomological landscapes, Soft-bodied Shweshwe beasties. See them while you can. Before they mutate.

Retha Buitendach with one of her beasties, Red Ant

I then drove to other side of town (luckily it only takes five minutes) to visit the Grahamstown pop up crafters’ collective at Artificer’s Square, the town’s original trading centre. I left wearing a pair of bright earrings and the following photographs on my camera.

Artificer’s Square with the TRADE pop-up market


Carefully crafted children’s dresses by Hilary Mohr of Billy Bunting and soft toys appropriately called CuddleSomeCuties, handmade with love by Sharon Martin.


This year one of the hubs of the festival is literally on our doorstep. The Village Green, a tented craft market, is on the school fields across the road from us. Guess where I will be spending the weekend days – with the added advantage of being able to pop home for a cup of tea when needs be.

Over the past two weeks I have been watching the construction of this temporary village – first the frames went up, then the tents themselves, then the truckloads of woodchips to cover and protect the grass, then the rows and rows of bunting, etc. And this was only what I could see from across the street. In the first paragraph I flippantly said that the festival pops up around us. I know that a lot of people put a lot of work into making it happen, not least the artists themselves, and for that I am grateful.

This year the full moon is shining on the National Arts Festival. Here is the Village Green by night.


The 2018 Standard Bank Young Arts for visual art is Igshaan Adams. His exhibition When Dust Settles includes textiles. Here is another excerpt from the programme: “Adams presents an eclectic and multi-sensory large-scale installation, bringing together aspects of sculpture, textiles, found objects, furniture and performance to create an immersive environment…” Can’t wait to see it.

Some of the links for the festival are or

14 thoughts on “Post # 20. On inspiration.

  1. I am sad to say I have never been to the Grahamstown Festival and am determined to get there one day. But you should have your own exhibition of quilts on display. I am surprised you don’t!


  2. I thought you would enjoy Retha’s work, I intend to go back and absorb more of her crazy creativity. I took a quick spin around the village green yesterday and was very impressed with its new location and set up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I too intend to return to have another look at Retha’s work. There is also stitchwork from the Keiskammahoek Project on the first floor of the Monument that is well worth visiting.


    1. The insects are even more amazing in real life. Thanks for reading and commenting. I had so much fun this weekend, wandering around the stalls and exhibitions, that I had to sit and stitch last night to calm myself down!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oooh, there’s so much great stuff going on in your neck of the woods at the minute! How lucky to have that tented Village Green market right on your doorstep, and I was so taken with the schweschwe bugs – they’re incredible!


    1. Thanks for reading the post. Yes, those bugs are truly amazing and, unlike your beautiful beasties, larger than life. The festival is now over and, between you and me, I am enjoying the peace and quiet and being able to return to evenings of stitching


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