Hotel full of art a connection to African roots

Octayvia Nance

WHEN walking through No5 Boutique Art Hotel in Port Elizabeth, one feels a sense of connecting to one’s roots amid a stunning tribute to African artists, coupled with a significant nod to art deco.

Formerly the Shamwari Townhouse, the Mantis Collection establishment now has a new name and new identity – and one of the most eclectic collections of art to be found in any such venue.

Mantis chairman Adrian Gardiner reinforced this feeling of connecting to the past and the present when he spoke about his private art collection as he took My Weekend on a tour of the Summerstrand hotel.

Over the past 32 years, Gardiner has slowly collected mostly local paintings and sculptures – more than 150 pieces in total.

For him, it was all about the individual beauty of the works.

He also pointed out a spa shower with the walls covered in colourful floral mosaic, saying art went beyond what was hanging on the walls.

“The magnificent collection of the artwork is enhanced by not only what is seen hanging on the walls, but also the architecture and fine pieces of furniture.”

One of Gardiner’s favourite pieces in the hotel is in the wine cellar dining venue and is titled Nowhere To Go, by Jan van der Merwe.

The artist transformed “found objects” into artwork that evokes memories, emotions and a tremendous sense of wonder.

A suitcase stands alongside a chair from which a coat hangs, with files and folders on the seat.

Also by Van der Merwe is Unclaimed – Onopgeëis. It consists of 11 perspex postboxes, each filled with rusty metal envelopes.

“Each box represents one of the 11 official languages,” Gardiner explained.

The work is said to express the frustration that many ordinary South Africans experience with their “invisibility” in the contemporary political climate.

Gardiner’s array of art also includes works by apartheid struggle painter Sam Nhlengethwa in the Jazz Room, landscape painter Henk Serfontein in the corridors, and photographer Obie Oberholzer in the suites.

Unique artwork by Sandra Hanekom, joint pieces by Zwelethu Mthethwa and Louis Jansen van Vuuren, African-inspired paintings by Barbara Tyrrell and lithographs by Hanneke Benade were among those highlighted by the globetrotting hotel owner.

He said each painting, portrait and sculpture related to the space it was granted in each room.

Gardiner made special reference to Jon Riordan’s Pebbles, a series of striking photographs taken of a bed of pebbles at Schoenmakerskop, that appears in the spa.

“Art is created all around me. In the piano room you will see a porcelain Goldscheider lamp – it is rare art deco.

“And the Mountbatten Theatre is an artwork all by itself.

“It’s our 14-seat room modelled on Prince Charles’ Clarence House cinema.”

Apart from its main premises, the hotel also has a three-bedroom villa a few steps away – completed in just three months before the 2010 World Cup – noted for its football theme which comes to life through the work of Port Elizabeth artist Duncan Stewart.

Stewart’s work includes a sculpture of a young boy asleep with a soccer ball, paintings with soccer stadium undertones, and a giant referee’s whistle.

The eclectic collection combines traditional craft motifs with modern imagery and materials.

It is characterised by rich colours and bold geometric shapes as well as antique and lavish adornments.

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