The Manenberg Tornado


26 drawings (coloured pencil on paper)

The Manenberg Tornado is based on a set of botanical paintings made by Margaret Stewart (1810–1884) while she was in South Africa from 1834 to 1838. Stewart lived in Claremont, a suburb of Cape Town, where her astronomer husband, John Herschel (1792–1871), was building a telescope. The couple undertook a number of excursions throughout the colonised surrounds, collecting botanical samples from which Stewart produced her portfolio, the 132 images forming a concentrated representation of the Cape’s native species. Stewart also wrote diaries and posted letters back to Britain in which she addressed the politics of the colony, often challenging the reporting of confrontations between settler and indigenous populations that appeared in the British press.

In 2017, I re-enacted one of Stewart’s excursions, a 100km round trip that stretched from Claremont in the west to Gordon’s Bay in the east. In the 1830s, this route was sparsely populated and was traversed by rough tracks, but today it is a densely populated region consisting of wealthy suburbs, formal and informal townships, small industry, urban farms, conservation areas and tourist sites. I met a number of people who live and work on the route – including residents, conservationists, activists, academics, amateur botanists, and farmers – and talked to them about their relationship with the land.

In The Manenberg Tornado, each encounter is represented by a drawing of whatever was growing on the site it occurred, whether that be a rare native species, a weed, a vegetable, or a pot plant from a garden centre. The work was a means to help me understand the spaces and politics of post-apartheid Cape Town through an engagement with how land is organised, occupied and articulated.

This work was made possible by Collective (Edinburgh) and The Glasgow School of Art, and by the following individuals: Freda Cupido & Roderick, Noloyiso Dlamani, Ed February, Yolande Hendler & Bunita Kohler, Melanie Johnson, Rupert Koopman, Nina Liebenberg, Carina Lochner, Nwabisa Majali, Cathy Paterson, Rob Small, Terry Trinder-Smith and Lesley Young.

Exhibited in:

Rumours of a New Planet

Collective, Edinburgh (24 Nov 2018 → 31 Mar 2019)


The Tetley, Leeds (24 Sept 2019 → 19 Jan 2020)