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What we do in the winter

June 8, 2011

Okay, so we have to admit that the weather here in the Western Cape isn’t quite so wonderful in the winter as it is in the rest of the year. However, there are lots of things to do, especially if you’re interested in art and culture.

In particular, the Iziko Museums of Cape Town have some wonderful places of interest to visit including social history sites, the natural history museum and planetarium and the national art gallery. Many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other, near the Company Garden’s in the city centre, so no matter what time of year it is, there’s plenty to enjoy and occupy all interests and ages.

The South African Museum and Planetarium

The South African Museum houses a facinating collection of natural history artifacts including permanent exhibitions ranging from dinosaurs to dolphins, and meteorites to mammals. Social history collections include weapons, coins, precious metals, toys, textiles and ceramics. So there’s something for everyone – and there’s free entry for kids.

The Planetarium, which is housed in the same building, uses a special star machine and multiple projectors to take you through the wonders of the universe. The night sky is effectively created inside the auditorium, so whatever the weather outside, the Planetarium sky is always clear: an extraordinary audio-visual experience for old and young.

The South African National Gallery

Just the other side of the Botanical Gardens on Government Avenue is the National Art Gallery which houses outstanding collections of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art.

Since the 1980s, the huge vitality and significance of the art which began to emerge in South Africa brought about a significant shift in the gallery’s acquisitions policy, which now concentrates on contemporary South African art. Serious attempts are being made to fill the gaps in the collection resulting from the apartheid past.

Since 1990, one of the major tasks has been to establish a collection that acknowledges and celebrates the cultures of the African continent, particularly its southern regions. An important collection of beadwork has been established and the permanent collection has been enriched with the addition of indigenous sculpture, as well as the repatriation of artifacts that were removed from the country over the last two hundred years.

Selections from the permanent collection change regularly and temporary exhibitions of paintings, works on paper, photography, new media, sculpture, beadwork and textiles are hosted. They provide insight into the range of aesthetic production in South Africa, the African continent and beyond.

Commercial galleries

Maybe you’ve never considered before, but a piece of original artwork makes a fabulous souvenir or a very special present.  There are lots of small commercial galleries selling work by local contemporary artists in central Cape Town and in the suburbs, but one of my favourites is the Liebrecht Gallery here in Somerset West.

Avril Gardner’s gallery is a real one-off – a purpose-built fine art gallery right in the centre of town.  The range of paintings is stunning and the atmosphere friendly and accessible – and you can park your car just outside!  Recently there has been a gorgeous range of practical pottery items on display, which would grace any table.  The gallery also has a coffee shop and, in winter, concerts and theatre productions make use of the gallery space.  A real gem – right in the heart of Somerset West

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