Sovereign Stuns Stellenbosch

Culture is breaking out all over Stellenbosch. Last week at the launch of Jean Engelbrecht’s toothsome Stellenbosch Ridge 2009 Bordeaux-style blend at Stellenbosch (the restaurant) in Windhoek, the back label proclaimed “Stellenbosch is unique in that it is the centre of fine wine, academia and culture in South Africa” with the only controversial point the qualification of Africa by South. For after the announcement of the winner of the 2011 African Art Prize at Tokara in Stellenbosch last night, who can doubt that Oak City is not the cultural capital of the continent?

sov1 Sovereign Stuns Stellenbosch

The People's Choice, Barbara Wildenboer

The $25K first prize went to Hassan Hajjaj for Rubbish Odalisque, a witty photograph of a reclining figure dressed in the packing detritus of consumerism that disfigures the continent. The $1K people’s prize was won by Barbara Wildenboer (above) for a book The Principles of Insect Physiology carved into ethereal, Kate Bush-like floral forms. A stunning work which confirmed that the wisdom of crowds can be as acute, if not better, than the decision of a bunch of “experts.”

 Sovereign Stuns Stellenbosch

Midori and Hans-Peter Schroder

The stellar fringe of Stellenbosch was out in force, with the most glamorous couple husband and wife Midori Maruyama and Hans-Peter Schröder from Oude Nektar (above) in the Jonkershoek. Their daughter used to work for sponsors of the competition, the Sovereign Group, while Midori’s family used to own the largest art gallery in Tokyo. HP now collects ceramics and admits “for me, a work of art has to have function.” A bit like the Stark-Condé wines produced by his designer son-in-law José Condé. Bottles of wine perhaps, they have form, function and finesse and are works of fine art as well.