The Owl House

The Owl House

The Owl House is a Karoo cottage and yard located in the small village of Nieu Bethesda outside Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape. Between 1950 and 1976, the late Helen Martins spent her time obsessively transforming her home into a glass-encrusted wonderland and statue garden that would later become one of South Africa’s prominent examples of 'outsider art'.

Driven by the urge to express her deepest feelings, her dreams and her desires, Martins revamped her house by using mirrors and then glass to transform ordinary walls into glittering fields of colour. Outside she began making concrete statues of camels and owls. Over the years, Martins and her various assistants expanded the collection of sculptures by adding mythical figures, human figures and other animals.

Today it is a forest of over 500 statues set against a luminous backdrop of walls and ceilings coated with elaborate patterns of crushed glass embedded in bands of brightly coloured paint. Shortly before she turned 79, Martins ended her life by drinking caustic soda. Details of this eccentric and elusive woman remain a mystery: one which inspired Athol Fugard's play, 'The Owl House'.

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Venue address: Martin St, Nieu-Bethesda

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Wheelchair accessibility: Unknown


Tel: 049 841 1733