History in all its glory at Casa Labia

2019-08-06 06:00
Jerome Rupare, Rebecca Butler and Azola Mkosana are the staff based at Casa Labia.PHOTOS: Racine Edwardes

Jerome Rupare, Rebecca Butler and Azola Mkosana are the staff based at Casa Labia.PHOTOS: Racine Edwardes

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Locals and tourists have the opportunity to enjoy all the offerings of the Italian Labia family in the cultural centre which was once their home in Muizenberg.

Casa Labia Cultural Centre is a unique venue often passed by drivers as they make their way to the beaches, but little do they know that the venue is home to interesting historical art.

The centre, a national monument, is now home to a Community Art Facilitators’ Workshop organised by non-profit organisation (NPO) Butterfly Art Project, as well as Cucina Labia, a restaurant that specialises in South African and Italian cuisine.

Rebecca Butler, events manager at the centre, says the house was built between 1929 and 1930 by the Venetian count Natale Labia who was posted in South Africa in the late 1910s. He married Ida Robinson. The count commissioned the building of the 20-room, Italian-style mansion for him, his wife and their two sons but the family only spent a short time here.

“They lived in it for only about six months. When the count and countess moved in it was a very difficult time between the Italian embassy and South Africa and so Natale was under a lot of stress. He died in the drawing room, here,” says Butler as she gestures to a room now filled with dining chairs and tables.

“When he passed away, the countess and her two kids decided they didn’t want to live here anymore, so they moved back to the Hawthornden House (in Wynberg).”

She explains that the mansion was seldom used after the death of the count in 1935 and even less so after the death of the countess.

Azola Mkosana, cultural manager at the venue, added: “After the countess’s death in the 1960s there was a lease agreement (on the property) with the Canadian embassy.

“Following that there was another lease agreement made with the Argentinian embassy.

“The lease was taken over by the South African government around 1985 and it became the Natale Labia Museum.”

The mansion was renovated and reopened as a museum and a cultural centre in 1988, but as time passed the funds to keep it running were no longer readily available.

According to Butler, in 2008 Count Luccio Labia (Natale’s son) was awarded the rights to oversee the property once again.

With assistance from his daughter, Antonia Labia Hardres-Williams, the property was lovingly restored to its original glory.
The centre is still decorated with original paintings dating from the 1880s. The original ballroom ceiling and imported furniture all help to maintain the Italian design.
Visitors are now able to view a selection of the art housed at the venue, enjoy a fine-dining experience at Cucina Labia and learn more about a small, but significant, part of Muizenberg’s history.

  • For more information on Casa Labia Cultural Centre and its amenities, call 021 788 6068 or visit www.casalabia.co.za.


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