Willie Schlechter

Artist's statement and description:The topic of land ownership and expropriation led me to investigate the role that some plants have played in (mis)shaping the socio-, agricultural, and political landscape of the Cape. Like its human counterparts, foreign plants were either introduced to the Cape, or native species were displaced and even systematically removed from their original environments.

Perhaps the most (in)famous example of how plants were used as a political tool in shaping the Cape landscape, is "van Riebeeck's Hedge". In his daily journal, Jan van Riebeeck mentions the planting of Wild Almond trees (Brabejum stellatifolium), together with various fast-growing brambles and thorn bushes, as a protective hedge against the raids of the Hottentots.

The Cape Thatching Reed (Elegia tectorum) grows naturally on Table Mountain and in other parts of the Cape, but has been cultivated extensively for the roofs of Cape Dutch houses. Similar to the Wild Almond Hedge, the "taming" or rather "containment" of the Thatching Reed inevitably created a very unique and recognizable Cape identity.

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