Helen Martin’s Owl House

Submitted by shirlie williams March 7th, 2012
Certifikitsch WinnerClassique d Camembert

I am fascinated by strange and unusual houses and gardens, and by the people whose imaginations make such wondrous places. Helen Martin’s house is in Nieu Bethseda, Eastern Cape, South Africa. She started to transform her surroundings around the age of 50, inspired by biblical texts, the poetry of Omar Khayyam, and the works of William Blake. Over twelve years, she and Koos Malgas, a local sheepshearer and builder, created from her imaginings the hundreds of sculptures and relief figures that crowd the ‘Camel Yard’ and cover the walls of the house.

It appears that she became reclusive and viewed with suspicion by the community, and sadly she committed suicide at the age of 78. she is now considered one of South Africa’s foremost ‘Outsider artists’, and the house and garden is now a museum .

4 Responses to “Helen Martin’s Owl House”

  1. Allee Willis

    Another spectacular find by you.

    So sad to hear the artist committed suicide. It was such a breakthrough for her to start this at age 50 and sad that she couldn’t deal with her demons as she found a way to express herself through her work. And it’s pretty incredible work! Thank God it’s been preserved and given museum status, and that she is at least now considered one of South Africa’s primo outsider artists.

    How big is the property?

    Can you go in the house as well? And is it as decorated as fully as the outside?

  2. shirlie williams

    Allee I found this Youtube clip, I cannot find any info on how big the property is , it does look to be very rural. The video clip shows a bit of the interior. Thank you for the Camenbert ,in honour of Helen Martins for her wonderful imagination ..

    • Allee Willis

      Here’s what we get in the States when we go to that link: “This video contains content from EMI, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.
      Sorry about that.” Booooooooo