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


Les Semboules, Antibes

November, 2017



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.  



Seeliger family archive.

St Stephens – Mervyn Hector






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


Les Semboules, Antibes

November, 2017



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.  



Seeliger family archive.





Will will travel

I am a part of all that I have met

Ek is deel van alles wat ek ontmoet het

Je fais partie de tout ce que j’ai rencontré

Είμαι μέρος όλων αυτών που έχω γνωρίσει

Soy parte de todo lo que he contrado

Ich bin ein Teil von allem, was ich getroffen habe

나는 내가 만난 모든 것의 일부이다.

Sono parte di tullo quello che ho incontrato

Ik ben onderdeel van alles wat ik heb ontmoet

Namibia from space


I am a part of all that I have met; 

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’ 

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades 

For ever and forever when I move. 

How dull it is to pause, to make an end, 

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use! 

From Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1833


© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



The earth




Space Panorama NASA 1969





FRIEDA OLLEMANS  – sculptor supreme

I don’t remember her that well.  But I remember the whisky-and-cigars voice, and the eyes that saw everything through the lens of irony.  Her dress … well, she didn’t pander to fashion.  Yes, you couldn’t escape it — there was a bohemian rising out of the late years of modernism.  Her husband Helmut was, in the words of someone who considered Helmut an enemy, “the most professional wine farmer in the Western Cape.”  And Helmut supported every hammer, every chisel, every chip of cedar wood or ebony, everything that Frieda did, because Frieda was an artist.  That’s what you did with artists.



Born in 1915, Frieda studied sculpture under H.V. Meyerovitz in Cape Town in the early-1930s.  She went on to an award-winning career at the Slade School in London for three years.  On her return to Cape Town in 1940, she made marionettes for puppet theatre as well as pioneering childrens art centres in  the Western Cape.  The Frank Joubert Centre in Stellenbosch is an example.

Wood nymph

She had exhibitions in South Africa and abroad.  Some of her work was displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York as well as in Chicago.

                The Dancer

Her first one-person exhibition was held in Stellenbosch in 1972.  She presented pieces in ebony, teak, cedar wood, olive wood and lead.  Unlike any artist I’ve known she had notices up amongst the works:  Please Touch the Sculptures.  For me, there are few instances in the history of art more sacred than that.

       Woman – Bearer of life

              A figure for Mutti

It was a huge price to pay, but I clenched my teeth and did it.  And I have it yet — a figure by Frieda.  Her work for me is harmonious as well as being braced against an obvious realism.  The lines flow.  I once heard her say, The wood tells me what it must become.  And it’s in the organic design, never unsettling, never stark and hard-edged, always leading the eye easily, sensuously to surprising detail.  The finish is immensely satisfying.  You ponder these pieces.  I have pondered mine for more than forty-five years.   Those who inherit what I have will ponder it too, as will their grandchildren and those beyond.

                Figure by Frieda

                Figure by Frieda


© Will van der Walt


Bridgewater, Somerset West

August, 2017



With special thanks to Süsse Bakker who provided the biographical information.

With thanks to Miki Flockemann.


Odysseus, Wood nymph – Süsse Bakker

Remaining images – my photographs





Portrait of a kiss as a windscreen wiper

From my puppyhood I learnt you kiss Daddy.  In that second decade, the use remained and yet not.  I began to see that there were different practices in different families and then different regions, cultures, other countries.  I think about this here in France where people kiss one another like windscreen wipers, and yet not everyone.  The social codes seem to dart around – understand me if you can!   I notice that the President of America (Obama) applied this windscreen wiper to diplomats and politicians in the Middle East.  I wonder if it is catching.

                  Windscreen Wiper Left

                  Windscreen Wiper Right

I’m adapting.  (That’s me with the white hair.  The man is Stéph, Claudie’s son.)  After some years, I wonder how long it takes.  These customs have been scrutinized in academic circles for quite some time.  The Anglo-Saxon cultures find the Latin encroachment on their proxemic space difficult to accept.  In my years teaching township children I was force fed.  There, the concept of “space between people” is entirely different.

The windscreen wiper in France between men will probably be judged as taboo in South Africa.  When my friend fetches me at Cape Town airport, he can relax after the barrier of a handshake has been set up!  Interesting how cultures can diverge on such basic things.  For the Frenchman and the Spaniard (to a lesser extent) the windscreen wiper greeting is part of the day, part of the centuries.  The Anglo-Saxon has dark associations with it  −  it is simply not a manly thing to do.  It will be interesting for me if Norwegians, Swedes or Danes could prove me wrong.

The world is a big place.


©  Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017



My curiosity.



Photographs taken by Claudie Mader  and used with her permission.




CAPE TOWN ANTIBES a homage plait

                  Les Remparts Antibes

“Everything here radiates, all blossoms, all sings. The sun, the woman, the love are there at home. I still have the resplendence in the eyes and in the soul. ” – Victor Hugo (1802-1885), poet, novelist, playwright.  Written 30 years after his stay in Antibes.

                Cape Town by Hoffnung, 1750

This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth. From the journal of Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596), explorer, on seeing the Cape for the first time, 1580.

    Belle Epoque poster Antibes

“Astronomy teaches us that the earth is a star of heaven. The voyages show us that the Cap d’Antibes is the heaven found on earth.” – Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), scientist, mystic.

      Belle Epoque poster Cape Town

“This is a pretty and singular town; it lies at the foot of an enormous wall, which reaches into the clouds, and makes a most imposing barrier. Cape Town is a great inn, on the great highway to the east.”  −  Charles Darwin (1809-1882), naturalist, biologist, in a letter to his sister, Catherine, 1836.

                             Cap d’Antibes

“I was struck by the sort of stupor into which the grandeur of things throws us, as we go through a garden beautifully situated at the point of Antibes. One is in an Eden that seems to swim within the immensity. ” – George Sand (1804-1876), writer, dramatist, poet.

                Antibes and the Maritime Alps

“I recall that I was once seized by a stroke of lightning before the city of Antibes, and I shouted it is too much, it is too beautiful.” –  Jacques Audiberti (1899-1965), writer, poet, dramatist.

                Cape Town by Bourset, 1770

“… Antibes, a gallant little city loved by the sun … and that the Eternal Father reserves for himself one day to retire, later, when He feels old.” – Paul Arène (1843-1896), poet, writer.

“Perhaps it was history that ordained that it be here, at the Cape of Good Hope that we should lay the foundation stone of our new nation. For it was here at this Cape, over three centuries ago, that there began the fateful convergence of the peoples of Africa, Europe and Asia on these shores.”  – Former President Nelson Mandela (1919 – 2013), during his inauguration speech on May 9, 1994.

                                  Cape Point

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017



Pierre Cosson: Antibes Juan Les Pins Biot Vallauris.  Guide Historique et Touristique.  Editions Gismondi. Cypris. 1980.

South African quotations



Antibes – Pierre Cosson : Antibes …

Hoerikwagga – Hoffnung 1750

Belle Epoque poster Antibes – source lost

Belle Epoque poster Cape Town – Hoerikwagga

Cap d’Antibes – Pierre Cosson : Antibes …

Antibes – Claude Dronsart, Renaud Dumenil : Antibes Juan Les Pins. Editions A.R.T. 1991

Cape Point – Backpackers.com 





Table Bay, etching 1683

For me Table Bay is a Cape Malay bredie* of images and thoughts.  Table Bay and, of course, the Table Rock, were what magnetized me from the rural landscape to become a Capetonian.  And this bredie … Table Bay calls up for me the desire for a bigger world, a refusal to settle for suburban answers.  These Westerners … was the bad they brought in equal measure to the good?  In the shimmer on Table Bay history clashes swords with the sun … Wolraad Woltemade and his horse in the curve of a wave; the postal stones; ships sinking, ships arriving; the noon cannon;  bearded sailors staring at the Table Rock; Adamastor that you hear in storms if you listen; the Castle, the Amsterdam battery, the Chavonnes battery; the pain and anger of the Flying Dutchman …

The Flying Dutchman, ghost ship

… the murmur of the beach-combers; gulls; Robben Island, smear on the ocean;  musicians on the deck of a ship full of freed slaves dancing and playing the banjo, bringing the blues back to Africa …

Then the second bay, the Bay of Angels.  This Bay, the Côte d’Azur in France, stretches from Menton, near the Italian border and ends near Cannes.  They tell me there were human beings here four-hundred thousand years ago.  I smile.  Where I come from, South Africa, we start at two million years.  Still, history hums in the Maritime Alps that guard the Bay.  Here the Celt-Ligurians, a civilization of thousands of years, erected their forts and grunted under monoliths.  In Antibes (then Antipolis), where I find myself, their remains from 600 b.c. have been brushed open from under the Cathedral with its proto-Christian history.

Nomade sculpture ponders the Bay of Angels

Then came colonial masters, the Phonecians.  For them, the Bay of Angels was a lesser part of the larger establishment of Massala (today Marseille).  The Greeks arrive with an It’s our turn.  Monaco, Nice and Antibes all had Greek names originally.  Whether there were epic battles after some hundreds of years when the Romans marched in is uncertain.  Another handful of centuries.

In this time Roman soldiers regarded the mists of Scottish mountains and the rivers of Northern Europe.  After the assassination of Julius Caesar the coastal town along the Bay, Fréjus (the Forum of Julius), was honoured with his name.  His descendant Augustus had La Trophée built, today a sad, proud ruin, above Monaco. He instituted a census in the Empire, even to the far-flung town of Bethlehem in the Middle East.

Trophée of Augustus at La Turbie

Antibes has a legend that Paul came to the city.  Not unlikely when one thinks that Rome is but two or three days by boat.  Somewhere in the hills here there is a cave, its entrance collapsed and hidden.  In that cave is the Letter to the People of Antipolis written by Paul.  How would that be, if it were true?

At Juan-Les-Pins, the coastal town adjoining Antibes, there are few waves.  Here the Bay of Angels, or the Mediterranean Sea, often feels like a lake.  Over the shimmer on the water you see two islands, Ste Marguerite and St Honoré.  These islands, closer to Cannes, were occupied by the Romans and four hundred years after Christ, St Honoré and his following landed here, to establish one of Europe’s first Christian cloisters.

The islands of St Honoré and Ste Marguerite

These whispers across the water, music from distant times; strange instruments, lyrics unknown … they move over the creased sea … Table Bay and the Bay of Angels, two worlds, people who went before me, some of whose genes I carry … they saw what I now see and, perhaps, felt what I now feel.


© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2017

 *bredie – A Cape Malay dish of spiced curry, dangerously addictive



Pierre Tosan (ed.) : Dictionnaire D’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins (Hepta, Antibes. 1998)


Flying Dutchman – paulthomasonwriter.com

Table Bay – etching by Allain Mallet in 1683, from “Hoerikwaggo”

Nomade, sculpture on the ramparts of St Jaumes, Antibes –  my photo

Trophée d’August – Côte d’Azur Tourism 

View of islands – my photo






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