Little Jerusalem

This is a dedication to the Past, Present and Future of South Africa, with reference to Oudtshoorn, a town developed due to the ?boom? in Ostrich feather trading.

May our Country always prosper, may our people always support and celebrate each others? individuality,

May we stand together in times of great celebration and also in times of great sorrow,

Let our leaders always bring the message of hope, peace and compassion and our country always be under the protection of our Mighty God!


Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, 2012

In this artwork I use the buildings to represent the past, the child represents the innocence of the future and the scenes in the foreground display some of the current events that take place in the town: ostrich racing and the KKNK festival of Arts.  

I have done a tribute to the Polish Orphans in the forms of the Easter eggs that they used to paint, as well as to the original Ostrich farmers in their Victorian clothing.

 All the icons reappear, the Protea, the Galloen, The Springbok, the Blue Crane, Nelson Mandela, all uniquely South African, and of course, the white Dove, representing God watching over us.

The Scenery displays the gorgeous Swartberg, and also the Cango caves.




Short History


The history and development of Oudtshoorn is inextricably connected with the growth of the ostrich feather industry from as early as 1860. By the turn of the twentieth century (during the Edwardian Period) the use of prime ostrich feathers in ladies? clothing was high fashion, especially in England and Europe.

Feathers were light and easily imported and fetched incredibly high prices. The resultant prosperity had a profound effect on Oudtshoorn and its immediate environment.

Numerous immigrants, particularly the Jews of Eastern Europe, were drawn to the ?boom? town, mostly because their relatives and friends had already established contact by ?smousing? (trading).

Oudtshoorn acquired such a large Jewish community at the time that it became known as ?little Jerusalem?. With so much money available, the town expanded rapidly. More churches were built as well as many public (schools) and commercial buildings.

The farming community, who had suddenly become extremely rich, vied with each other to display their wealth and built magnificent ?Ostrich Feather Palaces? decorated and embellished with stained glass windows, turrets and handsome cast-iron work (locally known as ?broekielace? - cast-iron decorations that remind one of the lace decoration on ladies? underwear).

Several of these ?Ostrich Feather Palaces? are still to be viewed in Oudtshoorn and its immediate environment. The distinctive sandstone used for these buildings was readily available because it was locally quarried. The skill of the Scottish stonemasons, originally imported for the building of the Dutch Reformed Church (?Moederkerk? - Mother Church) is evident in these fine buildings.

A number of well-known architects such as Charles Bullock, George Wallace and J.E. Vixeboxse opened offices in Oudtshoorn and were responsible for the design of many an Ostrich Palace.

Even today their designs provide a distinctive architectural heritage for Oudtshoorn, reflecting the opulence of the Ostrich Feather Boom of 1860?1914.

It was primarily the invention of the motor car and the advent of the First World War that brought the Ostrich Feather Boom Era to an end. Faster open vehicles played havoc with the ladies? splendid feather decorated fashions and fashion trends in 1914 and onwards were generally more sober and less flamboyant.


Featured Buildings:


1.)C P Nel Museam: The Museum owes its origin to the private collection of Colonel Charles Paul Nel, who was a successful businessman and a collector of antiquities. A day before his death in 1951, he officially entrusted his collection to a Board of Trustees. Over the years the collection has been considerably enlarged.

In 1972 the CP Nel collection was brought to its present home - the former Oudtshoorn Boys' High School. As a result of this, the sandstone building, with its beautiful clock tower, was saved from demolition. It was designed by Charles Bullock and erected in 1906. The School Hall, designed in the New Republican style, was erected in 1912. The building as a whole dates back to the second "ostrich feather boom" (1900 - 1914) and was declared a National Monument in 1981.

The museum is essentially cultural-historical in nature and endeavours to collect, preserve, research and exhibit the unique heritage of Oudtshoorn and the Klein Karoo.

A unique feature of the museum is the reconstruction of the St John Street Synagogue (1896). A large Jewish community, primarily from Lithuania, immigrated to Oudtshoorn (1881 - 1890) and played a large role in the world wide marketing of ostrich feathers.


2.)Pinehurst:  In 1850 William Edmeades came with his family to settle on the farm Zeekoegat close to the Olifants River near Oudtshoorn. The eldest son, George Mason Edmeades, started his career as a painter in Oudtshoorn. In 1860, after the death of his father, he took over responsibilities for the family. He was a shrewd business-man and in 1863 had his own shop, Smithy, a wagon-building firm in Oudtshoorn. As his other five brothers grew up, he took them in as partners.

In 1911 he decided to build a double-storeyed villa residence on plot 365 in West Bank.

Noteworthy is the reddish purple sandstone that was used for the key pattern cornerstones and window sills that form a contrast to the lighter grey tint sandstone of the walls.

In 1926 the Edmeades family sold Pinehurst to the Public Works Department to be used as a Training College hostel for ladies.

After completion of a new ladies' hostel next to the College it was made part of the new Men?s' hostel 'Pinehurst'.

The building was declared a National Monument in 1966.

3.) Dutch Reformed Church (Moederkerk): High Street. 1860-1879. Architects: George Wallis, Otto Hager. The model for the five angels standing in front of the pulpit was Maria van Rooyen from Oudtshoorn.

4.) Fosters Manor: Mr. J.A. Foster, M.L.A. (1904), local Oudtshoorn attorney, asked Mr Bullock to design a double storey manor house in 1902. The building was erected in the Tudor-Bethan style with the lower level of local dressed sandstone and the top storey of burned bricks and the inner walls of mesh - plastered panels by Mellville Brown Jnr. Across the central section and at either end, are double-storied verandahs with cast-iron railings. The gables are false - half timbering. The main features of the front elevation are the flight of stone steps and encaustic tiling upon the floor of the front stoep.

In 1915 the Teachers' Training College was founded and in July, 1916 the building was hired for 300 per annum from the Standard Bank out of the insolvent estate of Mr Foster. The building was used for this purpose till 1924.

Later it was used as a Girls' Hostel for the Commercial School and as school offices.

In 1972 the building was evacuated and rapid decay is taking place. The school committee in co-operation with the local Historical Society and members of the Foundation Simon van der Stel have submitted a petition to the authorities for the conservation, restoration and declaration of the building as a National Monument.

In 1973 the administrator temporarily placed the building on the declaration list.

5.) Cango Caves : 29km from Oudtshoorn, at the head of the picturesque Cango Valley, lies the spectacular underground wonder of the Klein Karoo - the Cango Caves. Situated in a limestone ridge parallel to the well known Swartberg Mountains, you will find the finest dripstone caverns, with their vast halls and towering formations.


6.)Swartberg : Swartberg Nature Reserve lies in the Oudtshoorn district between the Great and Little Karoo, bordered by the Gamka River in the west and the Uniondale- Willowmore road in the east. The reserve encompasses 121 000 ha of mostly state- owned land. Gamkapoort Nature Reserve, immediately to the north of the reserve and 8 000 ha in extent, is managed as part of the Swartberg, making the total conservation area a vast 129 000 ha. The nearest towns are Oudtshoorn (40km), De Rust ( 5 km) and Prince Albert ( 5 km).

This area was clearly used by the San for many centuries, as evidenced by the numerous rock paintings and artefacts found in caves all aver the reserve. During the 1700's European farmers arrived in the area, establishing small settlements and making roads.




7.) Suspension Bridge:  Constructed by Rowley and Sons in London, it was suspended over the Grobbelaars River in 1913 linking the fashionable residential area of Westbank with the centre of town. There is a magnificent view of the Swartberg Mountain from the bridge.



8.) Century Manor:  Built in the early 20th century, Century Manor is a splendid example of a wealthy ostrich farmer's town house or 'dorpshuis'. The house is constructed of local sandstone, the primary building material of its day. Beside the aesthetics, (an important consideration for the successful ostrich farmer) the thick walls, high ceilings and window shutters provide the ideal insulation for Oudtshoorn's summer heat. The Oregon pine floors, sash windows and doors are a striking feature of the interior of the Manor and are complemented by antique and period furnishings throughout


9.)  Afrikaans Culture: Oudtshoorn is one of the homes of Afrikaans language and culture.  The town?s most famous resident was Cornelis Jacobus Langenhoven (1873-1931), who is considered to be one of the fathers of Afrikaans.  By 1914 he became a member of parliament, where he struggled to have Afrikaans officially recognised as a national language. He was a prodigious writer, authoring important Afrikaans literature and penning 'Die Stem van Suid-Afrika', the national anthem of South Africa prior to Nelson Mandela?s release and majority rule.
Langenhoven?s home,
Arbeitsgenot, became a national monument. Following his cultural lead is South Africa's largest Afrikaans language arts festival, The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (Little Karoo National Arts Festival), that takes place annually in Oudtshoorn.


10.) Tribute to Polish Orphans: In 1943,  five hundred orphaned or deported Polish children were brought to South Africa after suffering in war-torn Europe and spending two years in exile in Siberia. They stayed at the Polish Children?s? Home (Dom Poliskich Dizeci) where they were nursed back to health. They remained there till 1947, after WW2 when the home was disbanded. Some stayed in South Africa, and made this their new home.

Back Back to top