On Thursday I was invited to the opening of the Kamers food and design pop-up event, which is being held inside and outside the extensive The Castle, an apt venue as The Castle of Good Hope was home to the market in Cape Town in early days.
Kamers started off in Stellenbosch twelve years ago when a collection of friends organised it as Kamers vol Geskenke, and its timing was close to Christmas, allowing one to buy unusual, unique, and stylish presents to give as gifts. At that time they started with 40 stands, now they have 140, chosen out of a list of 600 applicants, we were told by the founder of the event, Wanda du Toit. Her official title is Creative Director. Other members of the organising team include Magdel Kemp, Amelia van Zyl, and Hesta du Plessis. Kamers has never been held in Cape Town, so hosting it in the city as well as in The Castle is a double historic event. Now Kamers is spread over four events throughout the year, in Stellenbosch, Pretoria, and for the first time in Johannesburg and Cape Town this year. It is organised by a team of twelve, and no one ever leaves, said Wanda. Unique to the Cape Town event is the collaboration with the Cape Craft & Design Initiative (CCDI), a collective of 5000 small design and craft enterprises, which are offered business and marketing support to assist them in growing their businesses, to help them grow, and to enable them to employ staff, said Erica Elk, its Executive Director. World Design Capital 2014 has endorsed Kamers.
On arrival at The Castle, we were guided to park furthest from The Castle building, and fill up the space in this way, not making sense at all, the latecomers being lucky enough to park closest to The Castle building! It was difficult to find the venue for the media launch, a number of us entering the building housing the William Fehr Collection. An Iziko Museums staff member was unfriendly in pointing us generally down a passage with her walkie-talkie, without explanation. She had no clue about Kamers taking place on the property, or where the media function was, and fortunately a colleague could guide us to a completely different building. In the launch address Wanda hinted at some of the issues they had in using The Castle buildings, being a Military-owned property with rules and regulations, which created some challenges for the organisers, but these were not visible to us, other than the attitude of the Iziko staff and the parking ‘organisation’. I fed back the problem with the Iziko Museums staff to Calvyn Gilfellan, the CEO of The Castle, who told me immediately that the Iziko staff are not his staff, and did nothing about it. Calvyn previously was the CEO of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, until it was incorporated into Wesgro two years ago. We saw the changing of the guard at The Castle on arrival, and a cannon display.
We found the launch venue, with a room at which a table had been set up for lunch for about 40 guests, decorated with collections of vegetables on silver trays, serving as centre pieces for the long table. Each place setting had a paper placemat with an Africa wildlife theme, and a doily pattern edging, on which our names were written, to guide our seating. I was lucky to have Anel Potgieter, who has won Eat Out Food Blogger of the Year two years running for her Blog ‘Life is a Zoo Biscuit’, sit next to me on one side, and on the other side Anida van der Spuy, who is a member of the Kamers team and is responsible for curating all the food and wine stands at Kamers. We first met in an adjoining room, where we were offered a glass of Saltare MCC, and canapés of bacon-wrapped cheese straws and cherry tomatoes. Wanda told us that they choose a theme for every show, never repeating the theme, and choose the exhibitors according to the theme, and guide them in terms of their display and pricing. The collaboration with the CCDI has brought in a younger profile of exhibitors.
The catering for the launch lunch was done by Pauline Schreuder Caterers from Moorreesburg, and she also created the beautiful vegetable displays. We were served a deboned chicken stack, with spinach and a hanepoot compote between the layers, potato crouquettes, and a medley of vegetables which included carrots, yellow peppers, and beans, sprinkled with almond flakes, and with a delicious thick sauce with raisins. Webersburg Cabernet Sauvignon and Creation’s Whale Pod Sauvignon Blanc were offered with the meal. Dessert was a platter of macaroons, chocolate brownies, and a cheese cake with berry coulis.
Anida very kindly showed Anel and I around Kamers, and we were surprised about the number of long rooms in The Castle grounds, which are ideal to display all the design and decor products, and foods. Creative use was made of The Castle space, the stables being turned into small food preparation areas for Flammkuchen specialists Piroschka’s Kitchen and Inside & You’re Out, which made delicious looking burgers. All the food and wine stands are collectively called Deli, and most are close to Lady Anne Barnard’s pool, which I had never seen at The Castle before, even though they are not all under the same roof, including Genevieve MCC; Boer and Brit; BOS; Chrisna’s Olives; Creation wines; Maxine’s Production Kitchen offers a lovely collection of cakes; MyBasaar, a restaurant with the same name being in the city centre; O’ My Goodness is an interesting stand, which offers plant-based food which is 100% vegan, kosher, and wheat-free, and is ‘raw, never cooked‘. I was offered a sample of mushroom biltong, of which I then bought a 27g packet costing R50, quite expensive, but it is beautifully packaged, delicious tasting, and guilt-free eating!; Queen of Tarts is a regular with sweet treats and delicious quiches; Bella’s is owned by the lovely and bubbly Isabella Niehaus, who runs the Palms Market on Saturdays; Saltare wines based in Stellenbosch; MaMère Confections, offering caramel brittle, and caramel popcorn; Woodstock Bakery; Wicked Waffle; Webersburg wines; mobile pizzeria Pizza Piaggio owned by Mario Gaito, their pizza oven being built into their van; and a merchandise store for kykNET Kokkedoor. The most beautiful sugarwork on sugar cubes was seen at Lucy’s pop-up English Tea Garden stand.
The remaining stands are for accessories (stationery, textiles, bags, pens, and pendants); body products; ceramics; clothing; craft; decor & design; jewellery; stationery; and children’s clothing and shoes. The highlight for me was Chandler House, which is a shop in Church Street in Cape Town I had not heard of previously, which had a table with blue and white ceramics which stopped everyone coming into their stand in their tracks, it being so attractive. Tictactoe has a beautifully decorated stand, with the cutest babyware, reversible shoes, and matching baby outfits. Masquerade (bottom left) from Franschhoek had its own space, well curated. We found a stand selling Zoo Biscuit design cushions, which Anel enjoyed, and generated a big interest on Facebook. I was fascinated with a cloth which had an image of an oil painting of Table Mountain and Devils Peak from the 1700s, of which the original can be seen in the William Fehr Collection at The Castle, with typical Dutch double storey gable houses right at the beach, which must be the Cape Town harbour now (bottom right).
No Cape Town design and decor lover should miss seeing Kamers, an amazing collection of everything that is beautiful for the home and for oneself, and to experience the beauty of our country’s oldest building, and to see how creatively the space of The Castle has been used to display such beautiful merchandise. Part of the Kamers proceeds goes to non-profit organisations such as the CCDI, the Breytenbach Centre, Irene Homes, Elves at Work, and the Good Hope Psychological Service. Musical performances are by Sima Mashazi and Sannie Fox today, and by Joshua Grierson and The Hollow Body tomorrow.
Kamers & CCDI, The Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town. www.kamersvol.com Twitter: @kamersvol Saturday 7 June 10h00 – 20h00, Sunday 8 June 10h00 – 15h00. R60 entrance.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage