J.C.E. Seeliger – architect

The first in a series of two

It is interesting how few people know who the first South African architect of note was.  We reach for names like Herbert Baker (Union Buildings, Groote Schuur Hospital, etc), but he was born in Kent … J. Parker, H. Rowe-Rowe, F. Cherry, E. Simpkin, S. Stent … none of them was born in South Africa.  And so, few of us know … probably because architects are strangely invisible and unsung.

            The young Seeliger

His name was Johann Carl Ernst Seeliger, born to Prussian-German immigrants who had actually been on the way to Australia and found themselves, after being defrauded of their possessions, more pleasantly situated in Paarl where their baby, born soon after their arrival, was christened in the Rietdak Church in 1863.  In his late teenage years he undertook a hazardous journey on a barque to Europe and made his way to Berlin where, for the next few years, he trained as an architect before returning to South Africa.   In the late-19th-century the cities of South Africa were undergoing change which would make them largely what they are now.  For an architect these were exciting times.

                      10 Keerom St, Cape Town

His magnum opus, built in 1904, is the building at 10 Keerom St, central Cape Town, opposite the Supreme Court.  This building, in classical jugendstil, was the home of the Burger newspaper for decades, along with various other media agencies.  It was also where Seeliger’s office and studio were throughout his life.

           St Stephens Church, Riebeeck Square

Much of what he did is unknown.  In 1902, he was  commissioned to convert the entry porch of St Stephen’s Church, built in 1800, on Riebeeck Square.  He gave the front door and the flanking windows a Gothic character.  The building was declared a national monument in 1965.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

November, 2017

 

Sources

W.J.v.d.Walt:  Johann Carl Ernst Seeliger – noted architect –  article in Lantern, 1994.

Acknowledgement and thanks to the late Miss Anna Seeliger for information and photographs.

Thanks to Joan Brokensha.  

 

Images

Seeliger family archive.

St Stephens – Mervyn Hector

 

 

 

 

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J.C.E. Seeliger – architect

The second in a series of two

Seeliger, having been trained by modernists in Berlin, was creative and daring in his designs.  One of his buildings was the Baumanns Biscuit Factory in New Market St in Woodstock, which features a concrete span, revolutionary at the time.  His own home in Camp St, Gardens, featured a sliding door, probably the first of its kind in the country and which has become standard fixture.

       Corporation Chambers, Grand Parade

Other buildings include the Corporation Chambers on the Grand Parade, the Heritage Building on Green Market Square and the Hohenort in Constantia, where Seeliger is honoured by having the conference room named after him. There is benefit in discovering that your Victorian home in Tamboerskloof, Cape Town, was designed by Seeliger.

     Heritage House, Green Market Square

There are buildings dotted around the Cape Colony and Namibia each which bears testimony to his prolific energy.

Paul Weiss-Haus, Luderitz

A dour man, he shunned public life, quietly leaving his monumental mark on the Cape Town cityscape.  He died in 1938.

     Seeliger in his later years

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

November, 2017

 

Sources 

W.J.v.d.Walt:  Johann Carl Ernst Seeliger – noted architect –  article in Lantern, 1994.

Acknowledgement and thanks to the late Miss Anna Seeliger for information and photographs.

Special thanks to Joan Brokensha.  

 

Images

Seeliger family archive.

 

 

 

 

TOUSSAINT

I remain haunted by the memory, from a few years ago, of a woman, heavily pregnant, in the cemetery.  I noticed her at a nearby grave, placing chrysanthemums, as is the custom throughout France, on a marble slab.  It was Toussaint, the first of November.

I went again today, mainly to pay respects to Claudie’s late husband, something she and I have done together in the past.  I suspect too, that it was for those that I have lost in my life as well.

                                       Florists

At the gate there were florists selling bunches of chrysanthemums and tulips.  A woman with a collection box was making appeals for Le Souvenir Français, an organization to remember war veterans and to support them.

                      Cemetery, November 1st

Walking through the cemetery, I was struck by how bed-like the graves are.  In Istanbul, probably because urban space is limited, the graves were all upright.

I stood at the plaque for Bernard and I assured him that I take care of Claudie.  Then I made my way back meditatively on the winding path, thinking that Greeks and Romans from two and a half thousand years back might well have had a necropolis here.

A French family passed me walking briskly — two men in conversation, followed by a well-dressed, handsome elderly lady arm-in-arm with a young woman, in animated conversation.  As they disappeared along the tree-lined curve of the pathway, I thought I heard laughter.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

1st November, 2017

 

Images

Il y a 4 heures

Lawlessfrance.fr

Selectafrance.com

 

 

 

 

Little Erna jokes

My years in a German community brought me into contact with a joke genre called the Klein Erna Witze.  Most cultures have jokes of this type — either someone arrogantly stupid like Van der Merwe in South Africa, or the Polak jokes in the USA, the Little Lulu jokes in England, the Dupont- Durand  jokes in France or the Schutz jokes in Germany.

Innocent versions for children

The Klein Erna jokes are characteristically risqué, sometimes outrageously so.  They are associated with Hamburg where they originated, based, as sources have it, on the life of a real person, and then morphing by the 1920s  into a distinctive form of risqué naïvity.  The jokes have been refined by the acidic or even dark humour of Berlin.  In the film Downfall, the first German-produced film of Hitler’s last days in the bunker, a man tells a joke, referring to the bombed city, a joke which skillfully renders in English the spirit of Berlin humour:   “Berlin is a warehouse!  Where is your house?  Where is my house?”

                            Cultural patrimony

 

The internet offers examples and I share three:

Granny is preparing to go somewhere in the car.  Little Erna says, “Where are you going to, Granny?”

“Just to the cemetery, my child.”

Little Erna ponders this. “But who will bring back the car?”

    A media portrayal of Klein Erna

A second:

Little Erna asks her mother, “Is it true that storks bring babies?”

“Yes,” says her mother, “it is true.”

Little Erna ponders this.  “But who bonks the storks?”

A third, in true Berlin vein, and in my opinion, darkly cathartic:

After the war, friends come urgently to Little Erna.  “Is it true that the Russians raped you, little Erna?”

“Yes,” little Erna says. “Nineteen times.”

“But that is shocking.  It’s terrible.  And your sister?”

“Nah,” little Erna says, “she didn’t want to.”

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017

 

Source

The Flockemann family

Wikipedia: Klein Erna Witze

Klein Erna Witze

 

Images

Dwoskiboo.com

Shop.abendblatt.de

A media image of Klein Erna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Day before you came”

If life is a journey, one of the regions I revisit is music.  My musical taste has a range that bewilders me.

The Day before you came was a song produced by ABBA in 1982.  It did not achieve great sales as had their other music.  It was different from anything they had done and it fed my suspicion that ABBA were probably better than they appeared to be.  In Frida’s opinion this song was the best lyric that Benny ever produced.  And I was amazed at the range of critical speculation about the meaning of that lyric.

For me, the song is a ballad of Miss Everyone, living a life of routine, probably meaningless, doing what a person would do in the last 25 years of the 20th-century,  almost a time-capsule — she catches the train, reads the leader article in the newspaper, buys “Chinese food to go”, watches Dallas on TV.  But it is all set against the backdrop of her reverie — “I must have … I must have …  I’m sure I …” and so on.  It is as if, in her vulnerability, she is not sure of anything she did on the day “before you came”.  For me the “you” is a lover, if I have to judge from their oeuvre, though there are some surprising, even disturbing, speculations.  One of these speculations is that the “you” is end of their time as a group.

                               Agnetha

The poignancy of the song, with its hypnotic verse motifs, is intensified by Agnetha’s solo performance, not obviously supported by the operatic Frida.    The “rain” image, mentioned at the beginning, is in the last words:

And turning out the light 
I must have yawned and cuddled up for yet another night
And rattling on the roof I must have heard the sound of rain
The day before you came

 The recurring three-note embellishment on the electric piano plaintively seems to suggest this rain.

Unusually, the song ends by rising into a light wordless chorus that takes the sadness into the night sky.

A few other songs come to mind that have a similar effect on me — a healing catharsis.  They are Autumn Leaves (Kosma/Prevert);  Eleanor Rigby (Beatles);  Melancholy Man (Moody Blues) ;  Once I loved (Jobim); L’Ete indien (Dassin).  I’m sure that everyone has their collection of songs or instrumentals that touch them.   The Day before you came does that for me and it does not date.  There is one critic who feels that this song may be the saddest in pop repertoire.

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017

 

Source

Wikipedia: “The Day before you came”

 You Tube:  “The Day before you came”  

 

Images

Abbaupdate.com

Udiscovermusic.com

Billboard.com

 

 

 

 

 

THE STATUE OF LIBERTY — the stormy visage

I have never seen the Statue of Liberty, though, in a strange way, it is part of my world as are the Pyramids of Giza, the Colosseum of Rome, the Eiffel Tower of Paris and Table Mountain of Cape Town.

Given to the United States in 1886 by France 21 years after the divisive Civil War, it has been a reminder to all — in America and beyond — of political freedom … at certain times more than others.

Nine Eleven

I recently saw two 19th-century photographs of the Statue, close-ups of the face that one is not necessarily aware of, from a distance.  These photographs were taken as the Statue was being erected in 1886.

What struck me about the expression of the face was its severity,  dare I say, even moodiness, touching on inner turmoil.  Could there even be resentment and anger lurking there?  And yes, maybe I’m doing a Rorschach test.

Some might say the expression is one of determination, the quality needed when political liberty is in question.  In France, I see many portrayals of Liberty, from the painting of Liberty leading the People by Eugene Delacrois (1830), to the ubiquitous images on official letters.  The expression here is closer to serenity and even angelic radiance.  Perhaps the French sculptors of the time still had the coppery taste of French Revolution blood in their mouths, one hundred years on, when they carved this visage.

Perhaps the Statue of Liberty is only a political gesture and that the sphere of politics is fragile, needing warriors.  There is no inner resolution or happiness in this expression for me, the by-product of liberty.  For that I have to seek out an image of Nelson Mandela’s face.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017

 

Images

Nine Eleven – source lost

Monovision.com

Clickamaericana.com

 

 

 

 

 

BOVINE FLATULENCE :  news from the Pyrenese

It was an inset on 13 Heures, the lunchtime news hour on France 2 television.  And I quote the source in support of this addition to the Facts override Fiction archive.

In a certain region of the French Pyrenese mountains, it was reported that a lobby had formed against farmers with flatulating cows.  The complaint was made on grounds of health, but in the tone I could detect discomfort distinct. (No pun for the box)

From what I could gather, the complaint has been seasonal.  It would seem that a certain springtime grass variety contributes richly to the offending vapours that waft over the green slopes.  The problem, it seems, is perennial with no solution in sight, if “sight” is the word to use for an experience olfactory.

Let me assure readers that it is not for the lowliness of the subject that I embrace it.  And I’m sure that there are too, more solid ramifications in the narrative.  It is for the reason that I have seldom come across anything quite so bizarre – and, for me, funny – in my life.

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017

 

Source

13 Heures, France 2

 

Images

Doingmiles.com

Dreamtime.com

Shutterstock.com

Graphic – source lost

 

 

 

 

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