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Taming the Wild Beauty of South Africa’s Cape Winelands

by Berit Baugher
Dylan All photos by Berit Baugher.

In South Africa, an esteemed sculptor showcases the different phases of his career with a stunning new sculpture garden in the Cape Winelands.

STELLENBOSCH, South Africa – With a career that spans over 25 years and patrons spread across the globe, South African artist Dylan Lewis is a foremost figure in the contemporary sculpture scene. This year marks the start of a new chapter with the opening of , a stunning seventeen-acre outdoor museum adjacent to his studio and family home at the foothills of the Stellenbosch Mountains.

On an unseasonably warm winter day, I walked the grounds with Lewis, who talked about his fascination with the wildness of nature and man’s attempt to tame it — a theme from his art that plays out in his garden. Though it seems at first glance as if the hills and plateaus occur naturally, Lewis revealed that every curve and depression had been carefully planned.

The sculptural landscape set against the foothills of the Stellenbosch Mountains.
The sculptural landscape is set against the foothills of the Stellenbosch Mountains.
Two works from Lewis' famous "Cat" series.
Two works from Lewis's "Cat" series.

Lewis was inspired to construct the garden over a period of eight years after hiring an excavator to help flatten a parcel of land for his children to play on. “I had no intention of creating a garden, but when the earth-moving machine began work, I was mesmerized. It was like a giant sculpting tool, moving tons of ground at a time, with the potential to transform the derelict tract of flat farmland we lived on into dynamic shapes and forms.”

As I walked the meandering paths set around the manicured but still wild-looking land, I couldn't help but be deeply moved by the experience. "For me, this garden is the consecration of something internal. It wasn't created for a specific purpose, person, or experience. It tends towards the meditative. It's a bit like a labyrinth that is winding and peaceful,” Lewis says.

"Untamed" by Dylan Lewis.
"Untamed" by Dylan Lewis.
A quote by mythologist and writer Jospeh Campbell in the garden's lily pond.
A quote by mythologist and writer Jospeh Campbell in the garden's lily pond.

Inspired by images of Japanese gardens, which give sculptural expression to natural forms like rocks and plants, Lewis worked with designer Francesca Watson and indigenous plant consultant Fiona Powrie to populate the garden with species native to Africa, such as fynbos. A collection of 60 sculptures representing different phases of his career, including the bronze cats he’s best known for, were placed throughout the garden in response to their surroundings. Also on site: his original studio and bronze foundry, a gallery, a pavilion for exhibitions by other artists and events, and an old storeroom-turned-dining room where guests can enjoy rustic lunches.

To date, the garden is Lewis’s largest sculpture — and perhaps his most impressive work yet.

Lewis' original studio and bronze foundry.
The original studio and bronze foundry.
A sitting area adjacent to the gallery and office, which were decorated by Dylan and his wife Karen Karen Malpage Lewis.
A sitting area adjacent to the gallery and office, which were decorated by Dylan and his wife, Karen Malpage Lewis.
The old storeroom-turned-dining room where guests can enjoy a simple lunch of vegetarian soups and freshly-baked breads.
The old storeroom-turned-dining room where guests can enjoy a simple lunch of vegetable soup and fresh-baked bread.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

The sculpture garden is open Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m by appointment. Contact [email protected] to book a visit or guided tour.

From November 2017 onwards, lunches will be on offer to all visitors. Private lunches or dinners can be arranged by request.

WHERE TO STAY

Stellenbosch is a 45-minute drive from Cape Town, but I’d be remiss not to recommend spending a night or two in one of the world’s most stunning wine regions. Several Lewis sculptures can be seen on the grounds of , an intimate villa-only hotel with unrivaled views of Botmaskop Mountain and the surrounding vineyards, a serene spa, several hiking trails, and two of the area’s best restaurants.

FIND IT


Mulberry Farm Paradyskloof Rd.
Stellenbosch, 7600
South Africa
+27-21-880-0054
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