Willie Bester culled diamonds from detritus to build his dream home east of Cape Town.


South African artist and activist Willie Bester’s digs are not usual by any standard, and even less so by the conventions of their suburban setting east of Cape Town. With their striking blue facade patched with red and yellow, and garden filled with metal sculptures composed from found objects, these atypical living quarters are a living monument to beauty and eccentricity.


In the mid-1990s, when Bester and his wife, Evelyn, bought a plot of land in this lush, formerly “whites-only” enclave known as Kuilsrivier, the euphoria surrounding the dawn of a new South Africa was still hanging in the air. For the couple, freedom from apartheid was about more than political rhetoric: It had to be accompanied by material change for Black people. Designing a home of their own signaled a fresh beginning.


Artist Willie Bester and his wife, Evelyn, collaborated with architect Carin Smuts to design the couple’s home in Kuilsrivier, a suburb east of Cape Town, South Africa. Bester welded the front gate out of found objects. His metalwork sculpture (left) is titled The Myth of Civilization.Bester was born in the nearby town of Montagu in 1956, eight years after apartheid was legislated in his country. His childhood was littered with evidence of the ways discriminatory racial segregation laws created disparate living conditions among South Africans. Growing up in poverty, he was forced to improvise and be imaginative; he used discarded wire and plastic bottles to sculpt play objects. Later, he transformed the same bric-a-brac—which he gathers from, among other spots, scrapyards and garbage dumps—into powerful works of art. The late curator Okwui Enwezor once described Bester’s art as fashioning “a critique in which the Black subject is able to speak.”



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18 Feb 2021