Set in a picturesque valley, Riebeek-Kasteel is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. Today it’s the home of some of South Africa’s most famous painters as well as artisans and creators of all kinds, making it a dream for a weekend away. Here are some of the characters who populate this town, and whose small businesses are the backbone of its economy.
The jury is out on how many artists there are in Riebeek-Kasteel, because the jury is out on what constitutes an artist. Astrid McLeod’s The Gallery, and RK Contemporary, are two permanent galleries that cater for visual artists in the Riebeek Valley and beyond. Once a year in August, a selection of established Valley artists opens up their work spaces as part of Solo Studios: Intimate Art Encounters, an event organised by Astrid’s brother Klaus Piprek (pictured).
Klaus’ bigger vision of an Arts Town extends beyond studios and galleries to include a network of creatives. So while you’ll find excellent visual art on the twin-gallery walls, on First Fridays you’ll find artists of all sorts performing in and around the streets.
Since moving to the Swartland in 1999, Sue Pugh has started a pub, a preschool and a tourism company. She now has a flourishing essential-oil and body-product business for which her long-term vision is circular – help the farmer, help the planet, give the people a healthy, organic product.
Working with a small number of hand-picked farming projects, she supplies them with both root stock of young fragrant plants such as rose geranium, African camomile and buchu, and custom-made equipment to safely extract the oils. Back home, the oils are then distilled and processed into a range that sells at the shop and at outlets countrywide. “Our aim is to support local economy, keep our carbon footprint as low as possible, and produce a range of products that is quite simply, pure.”
082 407 3858, www.stillpure.co.za
THE WINE KOLLECTIVE
At his low-lit, cavern-style outlet, he represents at least 25 wineries that quintessentially reflect the DNA of the Swartland. “And they are not part of the mass market, and apply responsible practice regarding labour, farming and the environment.” So he’s serious.
Give him a chance and he’ll share in fascinating detail the difference between old-guard and young-guns wines, plus info on local products like Caperitif and Relihan gin and, if you’re there when the time and weather is right, you might catch his pop-up kitchen on the veranda. If his garage is open, you can also see his niche collection of restored Honda 200 motorbikes.
022 448 1008, thewinekollective.co.za
Henry Galloway is a relative newbie on the Riebeek-Kasteel block. A builder by trade, and a beer-making virgin, he bought the Flagship Brew in 2017, and plunged into the deep end with his wife Marina, who has since become the master brewer, producing five craft beers. “It’s a family business,” he says, “more a way of life than work.”
He’s recently extended the veranda and, at the suggestion of his daughter Mariscke, has come up with a menu of tapas dishes from all countries of the world – Portuguese peri peri chicken, charcuterie and cheese from France, and samosas from India are some of them.
But the core product is beer, and little beats a happy hour or so of tasting with Henry on the Flagship veranda, where you can contemplate your own way of life.
083 659 4682, facebook.com/FlagshipBrew
Fresh from the air force where he trained as a chef, Coenie Kruger learnt all he knows about Italian cuisine from the legendary Enrica Rocca at her eponymous restaurant in Wynberg. When she left to open cookery schools in Venice and London, Coenie and partner Johan Hurter bought the business. But after a couple of visits to Riebeek-Kasteel’s Olive Festival, they fell in love with the town. And now the town has fallen in love with Mama Cucina and its many drawcards that include home-made pasta, lamb shanks, panna cotta, jolly checked tablecloths, warmth and wine.
“Some of the locals bring us home-grown ingredients like spinach, aubergines and figs, and pretty much everything else comes from the valley.” Talking of mamas, both Coenie’s mum Francie and Johan’s mum Cora, help at Mama Cucina, as well as their guest house in Riebeek-Kasteel.
022 448 1676, mamacucina.co.za
“I make the sort of clothes I want to wear, and I’m doing what I’m meant to do,” says Lizel Olckers (pictured right), whose business, like her, has evolved and grown. It started in 1999 as a job-creation project with, at one time, more than 70 women hand-knitting and crocheting garments that sold far and wide. “But as local yarn mills closed down, it became unsustainable, so I started using fabrics, and designing garments that were labour intensive, with embroidery and beading, to make sure there was still handwork to be done in the Valley.”
More recently, Lizel has helped sisters Mildred and Dolores Solomon start the Riebeek Clothing Company, sharing with them a range of skills. Back in her own shop, the ‘clothes she wants to wear’ clearly have universal appeal. And Lizelle Faro (left), part of the Ancient Spirit team for more than ten years, looks pretty good in them too.
022 448 1777, ancientspirit.co.za