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Over the hill and through the deserted Pelindaba parking lot.

Nature creeping into the cracks in the tarmac left by retreating Nuclear geeks. In his book “Of warriors, lovers and prophets,” Max du Preez tells us that the name Pelindaba means the debate (or problem) is finished. An atom bomb would be a good way of closing an argument, it’s true. But for now the argument is kind of shut down while we work on new Nationalisms and new debates. Across the Hartebeespoort Dam wall there are a whole lot of interesting businesses on the go. Next to the curio, fruit and sunglass vendors, large African animals proliferate.

try sawing off this horn

Kind of better than a stuffed rhino, I guess. Nevertheless there is something a bit post nuclear meltdown about these beasties. I put them into a modified version of Pierneef’s Hartebeespoort Dam painting and called it “Pelindabadiere.”

"pelindabdiere" Gouache. 20 x25 cm

Pierneef parking out on the stoep with Gustav Preller, sometime in the 30’s. I stopped off at Preller house on the way to find the Hartbeespoort Dam site. Preller, a pioneer of Afrikaans, edited Ons Vaderland and wrote a book on Piet Retief and other volumes on the Voortrekkers. His house is on a sunlit koppie with views of the Magaliesberg to the North. The use of nearby stone, slate and thatch makes a dwelling that perfectly fits its surroundings.

preller se plek

The place is a bit run down and there’s no-one else around. Around the back there’s a courtyard and some rondavels.

It was in one of these that the poet and naturalist Eugene Marais, worn down by decades of morphine addiction, spent his last days. The scale, shape and colour of the dwellings is deep South African, the work of people  in touch with their landscape. There’s a modesty of scale here that reflects early Afrikaner Nationalism, if you like. And just over the hill is the nuclear research facility of Pelindaba – the love child of a rampant lust for power.

J H Pierneef’s Station Panels are cornerstones of South African landscape painting. They were placed in the old Johannesburg Station as adverts to travel the country.

But did these alluring places ever really exist? And how have they changed?

Taking up the invitation to travel 80 years later, Carl Becker set off to find out.

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