We recently undertook a road trip to The Owl House at Nieu Bethesda, on a sizzling hot day, with the temperature hitting 40 degrees. All in order to see an unusual place. Quirky, different, creative! The Owl House is all of those and more, and so well worth a visit.
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You can reach Nieu Bethesda down a good tar road, which turns off the N9 national road just over 50km from Graaff Reinet on the way to Middelburg. The village is very quiet, sleepy even, but it does have quite a variety of businesses, restaurants and art galleries. Helen Martins’ Owl House is still one of the greatest attractions. Do have a look at the local artists craft market, which is located down the road as you exit the Owl House. These guys have a tough life, and still manage to turn out some excellent pieces, they really deserve your support.
Until the 1940’s Nieu Bethesda was a vibrant and lively community, but it was eventually left behind by other larger towns in the region. Fortunately for us, the lack of further development left the village pretty much unchanged from as it was back then. A living, breathing time capsule and a green “oasis” in the bone dry Karoo, it’s well worth a visit.
Most visitors to town are here to see “The Owl House”, which is the work of Helen Martins between 1945 and 1976. She was born in Nieu Bethesda, and although she did travel, and obtained her teaching diploma in Graaf Reinet, she spent most of her life in the village. Helen was married for a while to a teacher and dramatist named Johannes Pienaar, but the marriage didn’t last. She returned to Nieu Bethesda in 1928 after the break down of her marriage, and never left again, becoming more and more reclusive and taking refuge in her concrete and glass creations. She took her own life by drinking caustic soda in 1976.
More information about her life and the Owl House on their official website here: https://theowlhouse.co.za/
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