Orienting Africa


Of course the fact that Cape Town is located at the bottom of the world is all a matter of convention. At one stage, maps would have East at the top – hence the phrase to orient yourself. Which is what I had to do when confronted with a wooden Australia (below) as my payment for helping curate Cape Town into World Design Capital for this year.

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Typical I thought. Canny Aussie marketers offload a job lot of cheese boards onto Cape Town tourism and a handy way to thank curators is the upshot. But hang on a seccie. Rotate the continent 15 minutes clockwise and hey presto! it becomes Africa. A far more appropriate image for a World Design Capital.

And certainly a better place to make wine as nature seems to have turned her back on the Lucky Country and sent heat waves, droughts and the annual epidemic of bush fires that had SA’s best Pinotmaker Marc van Halderen evacuating to Adelaide last week to tweet encouragement to the fire fighters. At least the oysters are good in Adelaide.

And this week it turns out that the Portuguese discovered Down Under and not the Dutch. The BBC reported on a religious processional (below) “containing texts and music for use in worship, was copied in Portugal between 1580 and 1620, and contains an image of an animal that looks like a kangaroo or wallaby. The first Dutch ship is believed to have reached Australia in 1606. But this drawing of a kangaroo – native only to Australia – may precede that. It would suggest that images of Australian fauna were circulating in Portugal at the time of the book’s production. As well as the kangaroo, the book has small drawings of male figures who do not look European in their dress.”

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Another cruel irony of history. Just as in SA, the Portuguese never tarried and never established vineyards or today we might all be drinking Barossa Barroca and Chateau Tahbilk Touriga Nacional.