Monday, 26 January 2015

The Owl House, Nieu-Bethesda

Hi everyone - I hope your January is a little less hectic than mine is with barely a moment to touch ground so I apologise for the lack of posts.

I made fleeting mention to packing up my blue & white crockery in my last post January Blues - that is because we are having our kitchen redone but I will share more of that later ...

However, I am going to share some more of my adventures when I visited South Africa last Summer to enjoy the Karoo. I hope you will find them as interesting as I did.

While growing up in the 70's in South Africa, the story of the Owl House in Nieu Bethesda & its eclectic owner, Helen Martins, The Owl House, was never far from the gossipy, magazine news. Someone who was so different, so original, so eclectic was bound to capture the imagination of the press & the arty brigade.

Imagine my delight, when my brother suggested a trip to The Owl House while I was visiting. I could not understand his rather reticent manner because it was a place I had always wanted to visit.

The spectacular Karoo scenery en route was stunning - it is one of the most beautiful landscapes with vast open spaces & huge mountains ...

Helen Martin put the tiny town of Nieu Betheseda on the map with her Owl House & the town is now known as an arty one, attracting lots of visitors.

The Owl House belonged to Helen's parents & she returned to look after them after an unhappy marriage.  She found a way to work through the unhappy situation by injecting colour everywhere, most of it through ground glass applied to almost every surface in the house.

Huge, coloured murals & friezes stare down at you in every room in the house, infusing colour & vibrancy everywhere.

The greens ...

The reds & the massive sun-like ceiling mural

The old fashioned kitchen & pantry were a riot of colour too.

 Cave like with the reds being so intense

The outside yard is home to her many eclectic concrete structures. She had help to do them & their upkeep is now sponsored by a national cement company.

I think I was rather overwhelmed by the intensity of the colour & the amount of it. I had always wanted to visit the Owl House, having thought of Helen Martin as an eclectic person who marched to her own drum.

However, I found the house almost sad - a reflection of a tortured mind & a lonely, lost soul who had to colour her world to keep demons at bay. The colour on the walls & every surface overwhelmed me & made me feel restless & claustrophobic - there was no calming influence or space at all.

I found the concrete statues in the garden to be too much & too many - it spoke to me of a compulsion to express oneself with frenetic energy that hinted at no rest.

I am glad I visited the Owl House, but both StacySparkle & I left feeling a little sad that the only colour of her sad life was through her crushed glass that covered everything & is credited with her failing eyesight & her suicide that followed.

Artists - perhaps their tortured souls are what make them original ....

What are your impressions of the house? Have you visited anything so different?

Thanks for stopping by & taking time to read the blog & leave a comment.
Dee ~♥~


  1. Amazing. Lots of work I can imagine. I hope she got over here broken marriage.

    1. Hi Monica - she never got over it & died there .... it is definitely worth a visit just because it is so very different x


♥ Hi - thank you for stopping by, I hope you enjoy your visit♥.