Creatively enchanting

2008-09-18 00:00

Sharon Dell

IT’S worth the journey along winding country lanes to get to Rose van Staden’s Hilton home, Tisra Til. Framed by a pretty, yet largely untamed garden, the thatched house has a fairy-tale feel about it. Upon your arrival, a radiant Van Staden steps forward to embrace you.

A healer, an artist, a landscaper and a vegetarian. These are some of the labels that apply to the soon-to-be 73-year-old Van Staden, but none of them alone seems sufficient to encompass the extent of her creative energy and commitment to life.

Van Staden used to paint conventional pictures of subjects like elephants and flowers in water-colour. Today, her mixed-media artworks inspired by local artist Penny Forder are a massive explosion of bold colours and mystical imagery. “I was painting what everyone else seemed to be painting,” said Van Staden. “Then I saw a painting of Penny’s at the Tatham Art Gallery last year and was enchanted. I said to Penny: ‘please teach me to do that’.”

The new genre gives Van Staden scope to depict the intense colour and vibrancy of her experiences in India, where she has travelled 13 times, and to depict such spectacles as the whirling dervishes which she witnessed in Turkey last year.

Last year, she had an exhibition at Mac’s which was inspired by the love poems of Persian mystic poets Rumi and Hafez.

Van Staden’s openness to the new medium mirrors her creative and energetic approach to life. Following the death of her husband Monty three years ago, Van Staden converted his room in their Hilton home into a treatment room in which she offers holistic therapy using crystals, magnets, colour, aroma oils, sound and reflexology. She’s also taking a course in meridian


“I don’t advertise,” she says. “So if people come, then I know they are meant to be here.”

Van Staden’s creative energies also extend to making necklaces out of gemstone beads sourced during her trips to India. She does spinning and weaving, writing and illustrating children’s stories. And she makes pottery.

“I’ve always loved being creative. I’m very right-brained ... definitely not a bookkeeper,” she says.

She also used to be a garden landscaper, although she now only maintains a few gardens, including her own, which used to be exhibited as part of the Open Gardens and which remains an impressive testimony to her eye for colour and natural lines.

Inside, the house is full of paintings — her own and those of fellow artists — and other memorabilia from her wide travels. A lute from Turkey is mounted on the wall and she brings me a wooden ornament from Addis Ababa. “How can I throw these treasures away? she asks. Van Staden has also seen the Mayan pyramids in southern Mexico and swum with stingrays off the Cayman Islands.

A keen follower of the Sant Mat spiritual way of life that involves developing respect, trust and love for all and developing one’s full potential as human beings, she’s keen to return to India in December to attend her regular retreat in the Punjab.

The Durban-born Van Staden and her husband were initiated in 1962 into the path which required the couple to give up meat and alcohol, lead a moral and upright life and practise daily meditation.

At that time, being a vegetarian was highly unusual. “We were seen as freaks,” says Van Staden. “And people didn’t cater for vegetarians. I became so tired of toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches, which is what everyone ended up giving us. Now, at least, there is more selection for


Van Staden describes herself and her husband as “ripe plums” when it came to their acceptance of the spiritual path. “We were looking for answers to certain things. When we read about the path, it made complete sense to us.”

What also makes sense to Van Staden is the power of love. “It’s the answer to everything.” Van Staden says her philosophy in life is to live and let live. “I’m happy for anyone who’s found what they want to do in life and are happy.”

• Contact Rose van Staden at 033 343 3838.

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