Anyone who has visited Kirstenbosch will be familiar with the magnificent bronzes of leaping cheetahs and springbok that dominate the entrance courtyard, silhouetted against mountain and sky, frozen in a frame of speed and energy. These are instantly recognisable as the works of Dylan Lewis, local sculptor who currently is based in Simon’s Town, but whose work is on permanent display in Stellenbosch at the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden. On a hot late summer’s day, with an occasional hint of sea breeze at various vantage points, we found ourselves wandering through wooded glades, fields of fynbos and alongside ponds of waterlilies. Thick vegetation crept close to the well-kept paths, reminding us that this was peak snake season in the Cape, and our footsteps took up almost as much attention as the sweeping vistas and bold bronzes.
A map and detailed information on the areas of the gardens was essential to ensure that we gained maximum benefit from our wanderings, and three hours is probably a good average for taking in the details of whichever sculpture grabs your fancy, while allowing for rests in the shade on one of the many stone benches to gaze up at the mountains towering before you in wonder and awe at the beauty of the Cape. The gardens form part of a private residential estate, retaining the original buildings and landscaped very artfully through topiary work on indigenous shrubs, as much a joy to behold as many of the sculptures. The indoor displays are not to be missed and the staff are readily available to answer any questions and ensure that your visit is an excellent experience.
The sculptures themselves are a journey through Dylan’s artistic career and are fraught with emotion as he depicts the loss of connection between man and nature. While preferring his birds and animals myself, his international acclaim is well-earned and each piece should be viewed on its merits rather than personal preference if you want to gain an appreciation of what goes into the works. I enjoyed the ‘roughness’ where fingers were imprinted, showing how he stroked the sculpture into shape.
On reflection, three hours was probably not enough, but the heat certainly was! Do put a visit to these gardens on your ‘to-do’ list and try to get there early. You will connect with the wild again, as he wishes you to.