Muizenberg is home to very talented and creative Willemien de Villiers: mother, artist and author. An exhibition of her art runs at the Kalk Bay Modern from 18 Feb till the 11 March.
I need to create something from nothing in order to feel that I exist. It’s hard to explain … especially through writing something down. The writing down makes it real. I have always written – stories, small poems, dreams, but chose to study fine arts: painting, printmaking, commercial design. The urge to write never went away, it merely brewed underground for a few decades while I worked as a textile designer, a ceramic artist, a mother, a painter. As a writer and as an artist, I’m inspired by the connections I observe; between people as functioning or non-functioning relationships; and while painting, as energy points found where the stalk meets the bud, the roots meet the soil and where the hawk moth’s proboscis probes the throat of a flower.
Human relationships inform my novel writing – in my first novel, Kitchen Casualties, I explore themes of sexual abuse within a familial setting, and the devastating effects that keeping secrets can have on a family. Maybe because I have two daughters, I find the mother-daughter relationship especially inspiring in all its endless emotional permutations. My second novel, Virgin in the Treehouse, explores themes of the sacred male/female; the search for wholeness, and coming home. A father-daughter relationship dominates here; something I wish to explore more in my next book.
I find the natural world endlessly inspiring: beach walks, observing the quiet behaviour of plants and insects. I’m very fortunate to live in a lovely old house against the mountain in Muizenberg, below Peck’s Valley. Here I am surrounded by everything I needed to create a new series of paintings I am exhibiting in Kalk Bay in the middle of February, titled ‘Seedbed’. These paintings reflect my interest in the anatomy and morphology of plants, and the almost mystical quality of cellular structures – a sense of wonder at the inter-connectedness of all living organisms. The seed for this obsession was planted many years ago by my intrepid and wise Biology teacher, Miss Müller, who opened her classroom early in the mornings for any interested pupils to enter and observe the small botanical worlds made large by the lenses of her neat row of microscopes.
Willemien de Villiers
Kitchen Casualties, 2003, Jacana. (Albanian translation in 2004; Viktima të Kuzhinës, Botimet Max).
Short stories published in various collections: 180 degrees, (Oshun, 2004); Women Flashing, (2004); Dinaane: Short Stories by South African Women, edited by Maggie Davey (Telegram, 2007); Lovely Beyond Any Singing – landscapes in South African writing: an anthology compiled by Helen Moffett (Double Storey, 2006).
2004: Exhibition of paintings and narrative ceramics at Dorp Street Gallery in Stellenbosch (Miskien altyd, miskien nooit), alongside the textile art of SUS, a brand Willemien and Tanya Daitz co-created.
The Virgin in the Treehouse was published in 2007.