First Thursdays: From the men behind the mountain to inking Cape Town's heritage

2020-03-05 11:47 - Gabi Zietsman and Marisa Crous
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Another month, another First Thursday to discover new art and take back the streets - and we're already on the third one of the decade!

March is here and there are many new installations and events to check out, including a behind-the-scenes look at the men who do maintenance on Table Mountain's cableway and intricately detailed ink sketches of Cape Town's heritage buildings.

READ: Why young people should invest in art according to these Capetonian gallery owners 

Cape Town Highlights

The Machine Behind the Mountain 

Youngblood Africa Gallery on Bree Street is the very heart of First Thursdays. And now, you’ll be able to view (and perhaps even purchase) photographs by Gary Hirson, who has been shooting the Table Mountain Cableway (TMACC) maintenance shutdown for 15 years.

As part of TMACC’s 90th-anniversary celebrations, the official launch of his photographic exhibition, The Machine Behind the Mountain, captures the people, the wires, gears, metal and the mountain in a spectacular way - showing the interdependence of all these parts.

table mountain photo exhibit
Walking in the Clouds. (Photo: Gary Hirson)

“Initially I never thought that this was something for the public to see. I was just trying to capture the scale of the operation and man working with machines in such a unique environment. Whenever I spoke to people about the maintenance shutdown, I mostly encountered surprise and bewilderment as many people didn’t realise that it took place. That was how the idea of the exhibition came about – to showcase what it involves,” says Hirson.

He says his favourite images are those showing the people behind this gargantuan operation – those that risk so much at times to keep the cableway performing optimally.

Few people realise the importance of the cableway’s annual maintenance shutdown period, and even fewer realise the enormous amount of time and effort it requires to make sure such a feat of engineering remains safe and simple to use during the rest of the year. 

Gary Hirson’s photographic exhibition will be at Youngblood Africa Gallery from 5 -  29 March 2020.

WATCH: See the high-flying experts replacing Table Mountain Cableway's ropes 

table mountain photo exhibit

Skywalkers. (Photo: Gary Hirson) 

Heritage City

Cape Town is a city where the old and new blend into one, and this is captured in the ink sketch drawings of the Mother City's heritage buildings by local Kyle Jardine.

For him, his art started out as a hobby and enjoy travelling the world with his ink pad and sketchbook to capture the architecture of cities he visited - just like a memory book.

"Now that I'm not really travelling so much with my performing based in Cape Town, I've started doing the same with our city because I'm in love with historical buildings and capturing it in ink," says Jardine.

artwork from kyle jardine
Kyle Jardine. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

His work includes large-scale sketches in his signature blue, black and sepia of buildings like the Castle of Good Hope, Spin Street, the Kimberley Hotel, Long Street and the City Hall. 

"I love the old and the new world - what fascinates me is that looking at an old building now, like Tiger's Milk on Long Street for example - thinking when those buildings were built a hundred years ago what were their initial purpose?

"It creates a juxtaposition of the old and new worlds as they are blended together. When I take the photographs I do a bit of research on it and find out their history - it was the first building on Kloof Street or like the Lutheran Church that's the oldest church building in South Africa - those facts just fascinate me."

He also has an 'inside' collection of interior rooms that he made up in his head, weaving intricate details into his work from a lone cup to fridge magnets to even washing supplies. 

"Someone once told me that my work lies in the detail and through this process I have found that exploring that detail and adding them in, it becomes the gem of the piece."

artwork from kyle jardine
(Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

Besides Cape Town, one of his favourite destinations to draw was Hong Kong - their British colonial history is similar to Cape Town and Jardine feels the two cities have a certain link in architecture. Later this year he'll be heading back to London where he's excited to draw more, but one of this dream drawing destinations is Barcelona, which is home to the extraordinary buildings of Antonio Gaudí.

"They are buildings that look like they've been pulled out of dreams."

You can see the artwork for yourself at Art is Art Gallery at 9 Rose Street until 31 March.

ALSO WATCH: A love affair with corrugated iron shared by two artists across social divides 

artwork from kyle jardine
(Artwork: Kyle Jardine)


At the 56 Church Street gallery, dive into Nabeeha Mohamed's exhibit Sunshine on my skin is my favourite colour - "an autobiographical reclamation of the self".

Stephen Alwright's Broken Face Soliloquies will also be on display, where he frames "single figures engaged in heightened domestic scenes".


See Lego artwork at this other Church Street gallery where Faatimah Mohamed-Luke creates African antiquities with the modern building blocks. 

READ: Stellenbosch's - and SA's - social tensions reflected in Triennale art exhibits 

Joburg Highlights

Keyes Art Mile

The hub of the golden city's First Thursdays, the Keyes Art Mile programme will no longer have formal streets closures and no more admission fees.

This month they will host a Night of a 1000 Drawings and will have food to satiate hungry pedestrians and jazz to satisfy eager ears.

ALSO SEE: Eco-Travel Itinerary: Painting Jozi green 

Wits Art Museum

In Braamfontein this iconic art gallery will have live jazz bands as visitors glide through the exhibits.

Artwork on display includes Paul Emmanuel's Men and Monuments, focusing on masculinity and questions around war memorials; Walter Hamady's acclaimed book art from the Jack Ginsberg Centre of Book Arts; and unravelled animations from Bronwyn Horne's A[chrono]mation.

Gallery 2

The Parkwood gallery's main exhibit is Audrey Anderson's Stand a little less between me and the sun where the explicit and implicit stand at odds with each other.

SEE: Cape Town vs Joburg: Which is Africa's art capital? 

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