A touch of art helps visitors make their own souvenirs

WITH its abundant beauty and laid-back lifestyle, it is hardly surprising that Rhodes attracts both passing and permanent artists.

One of these is Irene Walker, sister of Walkerbouts owner Dave, who not only helps out at the guesthouse but also runs pottery classes for visitors and local school children.

Born in Bloemfontein into an artistic family – her father was a woodworker and her grandmother a painter and everything that was needed was made at home – it is hardly surprising she inherited the ability to create wonders with her hands.

And she uses that ability to teach visitors to Rhodes how to create their own, unique souvenirs of their stay in the village, with the finished item – be it a coaster, a family tree, an Easter Egg cup or whatever takes the visitor’s fancy – being fired in a kiln and then posted to the holiday- maker should they have left the village by the time the item is done. “Working with clay is completely relaxing,” says Irene. “It is also almost limitless. I have moms, dads and even toddlers coming to me for lessons.”

She has also worked with the potters in Hogsback, who are well-known for their clay hogs.

“I even got them to fire the hogs in a kiln to make a more lasting souvenir, but a sangoma said this was killing the spirits, so that was an end to that. It’s a pity really, because without being fired the hogs only last days, weeks or months, but only if you are lucky.”

But Irene does not limit herself to giving classes. She also makes sculptures of the Sloggett’s vlei or ice rat, which is a species of rodent found in high-altitude grassland, swamps, and rocky areas.

In addition to that she makes lamps and other items for her brother’s establishment and also teaches drawing and glass painting.

Irene is not the only artist whose talents are on display in the village; the somewhat surprisingly spacious art gallery in the village is home to a large display of works by Gail Machanik.

South African-born Gail has exhibited her works in South Africa, the UK and the US. Best known for her vibrant oil paintings and etchings, her art often focuses on women’s emotional odyssey in South Africa.

With its art, stunning scenery and many and varied activities on offer, Rhodes is well worth visiting, even if just to take a stroll around the village to meet some of the most interesting and genuine people you could ever wish for.

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