HELEN MARTINS (1897-1976) | THE OWL HOUSE | South Africa | Known to the residents of Nieu-Bethesda as 'Miss Helen' and thought of as a strange and rather outlandish character, she shied away from general contact, and began transforming her house and garden. Despite crippling arthritis, and the amputation of her small toes which left her unable to wear anything but slip-ons on her feet, Martins decorated her home with 'glass and light'.
Visionary Environment – Helen Martins and The Owl House of Nieu Bethesda
“On a cold winters' morning in 1976, at the age of seventy-eight, Helen Martins took her own life by swallowing caustic soda.” (From the biography of Helen Martins on the official Owl House Foundation site http://www.owlhouse.co.za/) So ended the tragic yet somehow beautiful life of a colourful character whose artistic vision and psychological depth went mostly unnoticed by her neighbours in the dusty, out-of-the-way Great Karoo village of Nieu Bethesda. Helen Martins, who went on to create…
The Owl House: Was she mad or quite sane?
The small hamlet of Nieu Bethesda is sometimes called "the village left behind in time." To some degree, that is the choice of its inhabitants. For example, the villagers chose to keep their dirt streets, even though the government was willing to pave them. So, you drive miles from Graaff-Reinet on pot-holed, rugged gravel roads to get to Nieu Bethesda. Why go there at all? Because it has also become known as a small artisan village - with an active women's art cooperative, several small…
Helen Elizabeth Martins | South African History Online
Helen Elizabeth Martins was born on 23 December 1897 in the Karoo village of Nieu Bethesda in the Eastern Cape. She was the youngest of six children and spent her childhood growing up in Nieu Bethesda. She went on to obtain a teacher's diploma in nearby Graaff-Reinet and, around that time, married Johannes Pienaar - a teacher, dramatist and, in later years, a politician.
Photos and pictures of: The Camel Yard with concrete sculptures surrounding The Owl House, Nieu Bethesda, Eastern Cape, South Africa | The Africa Image Library
The Camel Yard with concrete sculptures surrounding The Owl House, Nieu Bethesda, Eastern Cape, South Africa