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This is the first in a series of shots I will post documenting the work and life of the South African eccentric Helen Martins. A nativity scene made of concrete and old wine and beer bottles. With it I wish all of you a very special Christmas and 2013.

One place that was very high on my ‘must see’ list when visiting S Africa earlier this year was a small village in the Karoo, Nieu Bethesda. This isolated place was home to, the now deceased, Outsider Artist*, Miss Helen Elizabeth Martins. It was a grey overcast day when we visited, what is now known as, The Owl House and Camel Yard but the impact of the sculptures and strangely decorated house and yard was no less arresting and I feel as if I barely touched the surface of this remarkable place and the woman who created it. I have to go back one day.

The Owl House and surrounding Camel Yard contain over 300 concrete and glass sculptures created by Helen Elizabeth Martins and her assistants. Almost all of the sculptures face towards the east, many depicting a pilgrimage to a suitably positioned nativity scene. Amongst the various sculptures Martins' totem animal, the owl (which she associated with intuition, insight, and wisdom) forms an underlying theme.

Helen Martins was almost 50 before she started decorating the Owl House and creating her marvellous sculptures. She is now considered South Africa's foremost Outsider Artist, although during her life she was faced with derision and suspicion.

If you are interested in learning more about this lady, I can recommend the link that follows.
http://eprints.ru.ac.za/3242/1/ROSS-PhD-TR96-01.pdf

* Outsider Art is a label given to art produced by people not part of the conventional art world or art establishment. Outsider artists are usually self-taught in their art skills and techniques, knowledge of art history, and work from an 'inner vision'.
The term L'Art Brut was first used by the French artist Jean Dubuffet in 1945. Dubuffet, who collected art by psychiatric patients, defined Art Brut as "works executed by people free from artistic culture [who] draw up everything from their own depths and not from the stereotypes of classical art or of modish art ... a 'chemically pure' artistic operation".
The term Outsider Art was first used in 1972 by British art historian Roger Cardinal in his book Outsider Art.

This photograph is copyright of Rosemary Walden - © Rosemary Walden 2012. All rights reserved. Any redistribution or reproduction of the image in any form is prohibited. You may not, except with my express written permission, copy, reproduce, download, distribute or exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system

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