Church gets the Michelangelo treatment

2016-01-14 06:00
Admiring the revamped Church of St Francis of Assisi in Humansdorp are (from left) Veronica Wittstock, Carel van der Westhuizen, Fr Paul Fahy and PPC Chairperson Felicia Lucas . .    Photo: SUPPLIED

Admiring the revamped Church of St Francis of Assisi in Humansdorp are (from left) Veronica Wittstock, Carel van der Westhuizen, Fr Paul Fahy and PPC Chairperson Felicia Lucas . . Photo: SUPPLIED

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THE lovely Church of St Francis of Assisi in Humansdorp received an interior facelift - getting the Michelangelo treatment from international interior designer and artist, Carel van der Westhuizen.

The project involved the creation of a magnificent three-dimensional land- and skyscape mural at the rear of the sanctuary, the creation of sandstone walls and architraves on both sides of the sanctuary and at various other locations in the church, as well as the painting of incredibly detailed three-dimensional murals. These murals alongside the mosaics of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady, appears to have been carved from sandstone.

“This vast project was completed in just 12 days. Van der Westhuizen worked up to 18 hours a day to get it completed in time for the celebration of the fourth anniversary of the dedication of St Francis of Assisi Church on December 18, and of course, the Christmas festivities,” says Parish secretary Frank Nunan.

“This project, the dream and vision of our pastor Fr Paul Fahy, was conceived some years ago when Fr Fahy met Van der Westhuizen at the home of long-time mutual friends, Veronica and the late Terry Wittstock, in Knysna.

Earlier this year, during one of Van der Westhuizen’s visits to Knysna, Wittstock brought him to Humansdorp to see the church and he immediately saw the potential. He says he had long felt the need to give something back in thanksgiving for his God-given talents, and decided this was going to be the project - his gift to the Kouga Catholic Community.”

Van der Westhuizen says he was “not alone” during this project - that he was constantly guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

He began his career as an architectural student, inspired by his architect dad, who sadly passed away when he was 14.

“I could draw a complete set of house plans by the time I was 16,” says Van der Westhuizen. It was in those early years that he realised that he had a huge artistic talent - and made another, not so pleasant discovery - he is completely dyslexic, experiencing great difficulty with reading and writing. “I realised then that I was destined to express myself visually.”

Following his military service, during which he was employed in the army architectural unit, he changed direction slightly and became a theatrical set designer, working for the Roodepoort Municipal Theatre for 13 years, during which time he was involved in the production of 39 operas.

He then moved into interior design, and after having worked on a number of projects in South Africa, was invited to collaborate on an interior design commission in the United States.

He eventually acquired his Green Card, and US Citizenship, and now operates out of Miami, Florida, under the name of Carel West Design Studio. He returns to South Africa on a regular basis to undertake design assignments.

“The Kouga Catholic Community is honoured and privileged to have been the recipients of such a magnificent gift, and will be eternally grateful to Van der Westhuizen and Wittstock for the unique legacy they left us,” says Nunan.

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