Not only was our lodge design based on local architectural and decorative trends, but we also wanted to involve the surrounding communities in other ways, such as skills acquisition, employment, and endorsing a general pride and celebration of Shangaan culture.

Telford sub-contracted Raymond Mdluli, a local builder and businessman, to assist in the project and to source the labour. Telford had assigned fourteen skilled artisans who would train Raymond’s semi-skilled work force in various fields, such as plumbing, bricklaying, etc. A fond memory I have of Dave is of his making oxide-coloured cement bricks to resemble the authentic cow dung bricks. He called us down to select the perfect combination of colour mixes while we debated the various hues of dried cow dung!
Pendrae and I started planning the artworks and interiors for the lodge feeling we wanted to reflect contemporary art and craft in South Africa. From the townships there had been an increasing emergence of art utilizing recycled materials and found objects. Along this concept we imagined wall-papering with product packaging, and generally went over the top with found objects. So many lodges were taking the colonial route and furnishing their establishments with objects from a by-gone Africa, or even Europe. This seemed a bit inappropriate for the era in which we were living currently, in our homeland. No other lodges we knew about had embraced or drawn upon the rich resources we had right here on our South African doorstep. There was even a fleeting moment when we joked about remaining authentic to some of the interiors we had seen in the local villages: maroon velveteen-buttoned headboards and glossy, veneered, bedroom suites. At that stage my mom drew us aside and suggested we call in the help of an interior designer! This was when we met decorators, Caline and Sam, from Artichoke in Johannesburg, who were invaluable to us with their ideas, and in pulling our project together. They wisely pointed out that the interiors Pendrae and I were envisioning would not be to the taste of most of the guests who would stay at Vuyatela. They suggested using a neutral palette and then adding accents of colourful individual pieces, thus enhancing the actual art and craft on display itself.
In true Djuma spirit we drew in friends to do their fair share of work, as we had done when we were renovating and starting Bush Lodge a few years previously. Neil Crafford was open to allowing me to express my creative spirit around the buildings. For a while I had been keen to try my hand at mosaic. There was a mate of mine, Andrew McLeod, who had dabbled in the craft. I called him up and invited him to spend a few weeks in the bush teaching me mosaic skills. Jurie and I had met Andrew at art school many years ago. He was outrageously flamboyant and, even on his frequent visits to the bush, would usually totter around on high heels, wearing a long-blond wig and with a wine spritzer in hand. Andrew was one of those rare individuals in whose company we could spend hours until we reached the point of almost hating one another, when the tension would break into laughter, and we would start all over again.
This was in about June 1999, and we planned to have all the mosaics done well before the tile-layers arrived two weeks prior to the lodge’s completion date. In order to do this we developed an indirect method of preparing mosaic panels. Direct application of the tiles onto the walls was impractical as the buildings were not sufficiently advanced. The method we used was to draw the design on newsprint, then layer nylon mosquito netting over the design. The pieces of mosaic were then stuck onto the netting using contact adhesive. We had to use this glue so that the panels could be stored outdoors for a few months while the buildings were being completed. Each completed panel was hung up on the wire fence around the yard, like trophies from a long, hard, hunt. Eventually the newspaper backing would be washed off and the tiled panels would adhere to the surface of the wall or floor. They made quite a sensation – both Andrew and the mosaics!
Creativity was running rampant through the building site as far as rendering techniques and finishes to the exterior walls were concerned. Among these were faux cow-dung bricks, wattle and daub, various coloured oxides, corrugated iron, and hand-painted fine-line drawings. Each chalet, or khaya, was made up of two separate buildings joined by a wooden deck. Sunken into the deck was a small plunge pool whose edges were trimmed with high-tech stainless-steel railings. Neil had wanted to plaster the walls with buffalo dung and, even though we thought cow dung would be a more practical substitute, Neil insisted that buffalo dung was the way to go. Luckily a huge herd of buffalo were moving about the property at the time. Dave’s son Alistair was given the task of collecting the remains of their foraging. The dung had to be no more than a day old; any older and it would not mix into a suitable paste for plastering, nor would it be the golden-yellow colour required!
After dung application beautiful designs were painted onto the walls by an old lady from Giyane, a village to the north of us. One of her roles in her village was to paint traditional motifs on the houses in her area. The pigment she used was a mixture of powder oxides, cement, and water, applied with none other than a toothbrush. I was concerned that this application method was so slow, and gave her a fabulous paint brush that took the paint readily. She tried one stroke, gave it the toss, and went back to the toothbrush method.
Caline and Sam, the interior consultants, wanted to use Clementina van der Walt’s hand-painted ceramics for the crockery at the lodge. I loved the idea, apart from the cost, but, however, did not believe they would hold up to the rigours of a game-lodge dining room and scullery. I decided I could decorate plates myself and just needed a kiln to do so. I found a perfect little second-hand kiln in Johannesburg and had it delivered to the bush. Once again, there I was in a situation with a tremendous amount happening in my life, and expecting myself at the same time to produce a complete set of crockery for the new lodge. Yeah right, once more I had to outsource! I called in Maré van Noordwyk, a close friend of ours, also from art-school days. For the designs on the crockery Maré went down to the lodge to be inspired by the paintings on the buildings. The paintings were adapted to designs for adorning all items of crockery in such a way as to offset the food to be presented on them. She used on-glazing on white porcelain to a great and colourful effect.
Remembering the impression Makalali had made on us in respect of its food and service we realised we needed to get in the expertise of a professional. Suzi Holtzhausen brought us her culinary skills and structured the menus to reflect a contemporary South African style of cuisine. She also laid out the kitchen and trained the chefs to prepare and present the new fare. Suzi was assisted by Bronwen Smithers, who enabled the housekeepers, waiters, and bar staff to come up to scratch with their side of servicing Vuyatela.
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Our African Way