Relationship Issues

An artistic collaboration between siblings seems to fascinate other people, perhaps partly because they are secretly wondering if we fight all the time. After 26 days in a small cabin aboard a ship together and 3 weeks sharing our bedroom and studio space, Katy and I have been feeling the pressure a little. Before we reach the point of playing mean tricks or pulling each other’s hair, we had a grown-up chat about our relationship. We realised we’re starting to feel like a couple who never have any time apart – it stops us from appreciating each other, and squashes our creative relationship. So we’ve decided to have some time apart, pursue our own interests and plan a special date. We haven’t written to Mariella Frostrup yet.


“Sewe Sakke Sout”

Tuesday 27th January: We set off early and head north out of Cape Town on the N7. It is raining slightly, and the morning traffic crawls around the knotty road junctions. Soon we are away from the city, driving past dry yellow fields with dark mountains in the distance. We pass the turn-off to Malmesbury and keep going. We are looking for Velddrif, at the mouth of the Berg River, where salt is still harvested. It’s further than we’d thought, and we drive 60km on a small bumpy road that cuts through the velt, with barely any other people or buildings to be seen. We do see several tortoises, ambling slowly across the road with no concern for the large lumps of metal hurtling by.

We reach Velddrif town and look for the Khoisan Salt factory, where we’ve arranged a tour. We are greeted by the friendly manager, who sits down with us and patiently explains the process of salt evaporation that they use here. He shows us a technical graph depicting how long different concentrations of salty water take to evaporate, and the trace elements you find in salts. Then he draws us a beautifully confusing map and sends us off to see the huge salt lakes where they harvest the salt.

Katy drives along the precarious sandy road between the lakes, and we see flamingos sunning themselves in the shallow water. It’s a remarkable and strange landscape. In the centre of this complex of water we find a mountain-range of salt, which a group of men are mining to fill sacks that are then loaded onto a lorry. We are given a tour by Isac. He takes us to the first pond, where 400-year old briney water filters through a bed of seashells which are the remnants of an ancient seabed. He explains that their salt contains calcium and other trace elements due to this source. From here, the water flows 6km as it filters through the complex, becoming increasingly concentrated, so that the last ponds are thick with pink-white salt. We see the small pans where the finest grade of salt crystals are hand-harvested, to make ‘fleur de sel’ – the salt of the Pharaohs.

Kathryn Smith had told us about an Afrikaans saying, “Sewe Sakke Sout”: If you have shared Seven Sacks of Salt with someone, it means you have walked a long way with them.

Rebecca Beinart



We visit Stellenbosch to see the University gallery, where we’ll be showing our work in March. It’s an amazing venue, in an old church with a beautiful vaulted ceiling and old chandeliers. There’s great potential in such a big space. But it also made us look at the calendar with a quiver of fear: despite Bergsonian philosophising, time is passing fast.

Walking around the sleepy streets of typical Cape Dutch architecture now filled with chichi shops and cafes, we spot a toy and miniature museum. We appear to be the only visitors, and get a personal tour. As I have just started to construct miniature stage sets, it seems optimal timing by the universe to drop this in our laps. We marvel at the tiny recreations of a basement garage (complete with crushed coke can). The curator has extensive knowledge of plants and shows us the museum grounds, explaining the origination of the trees and plants.

I am struck by the imposition of environments, so that the whole of Stellenbosch is really like one of the miniature models, a constructed world, an amalgamation of styles and mismatched objects, plants and trees, brought together to create a new version of place and identity for the colonists. And our tourist experience is yet another veneer of artificiality, a reconstructed pastiche of this reconstruction of place.

At Stellenbosch University, we have a long chat with Kathryn Smith, artist, curator and lecturer in fine art. I notice her collection of minituare cameras, each offering views of famous tourist sites of the world. Somehow it is an apt ending to our day to look at technicolour views of the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal.

Katy Beinart


Baking in Cape Town

Our culture has survived 26 days at sea, two weeks in a fridge in Cape Town, and a power cut. It was definitely high time to let it express itself in some loaves. At the weekend we decided to make our first batch of South African bread, and started the process in the kitchen at Alfred Street. The culture smelt ripe, and responded the warmth of unexpected summer with enthusiastic bubbling. On Saturday evening, the dough was ready and we baked three small loaves, which were enjoyed hot and buttery by our housemates.


Searching for clues

I am looking for the Deeds Office on Plein Street. There’s a huge imposing building that looks official, so I go in through the rotating doors and the security check and ask if I’m in the right place. The man at the desk tells me to go to the thirteenth floor. There, I wait for my number to be called as a smelly gentleman talks incessantly to me about his claim on his late mother’s house. Finally, I am summonsed to the enquiry counter by the moustachioed Eugene. I tell him I am looking for ownership records of the farms around Darling from the 1930s. He tells me I must go to the Surveyor General office on the 11th floor to find out the numbers of the farms. Downstairs there is more waiting as a guy uses a confusing computer program to try and match up the names I give him with numbers allocated to each plot of land. Finally I am equipped with the information and I head back to Eugene, to give him the numbers.

I am handed a huge heavy volume full of carefully handwritten deeds showing the ownership of the farms around Malmesbury & Darling from the 1900s-1950s. I go through each of the farms in the Kikoesvlei area, looking for evidence of the Beinarts. We thought that possibly Woolf might have owned some of the land where the Salt Pans are located. The documents are fascinating, but bear no Beinart fruit. However, I realise that Mr Basson, the farmer who kindly showed us the salt pans, is part of a family who has owned land in that area for over 100 years.

I leave the building with no further clues as to exactly which pan our Great-Grandfather would have harvested salt from, but with the satisfaction of feeling like a detective.

Rebecca Beinart