Nelspruit, South Africa — Mpumalanga artist Harem lost all his work when his house burnt down in a wildfire that swept through plantations near Kaapsehoop on Sunday afternoon.
Harem, who did a massive commission of 26 larger-than-life paintings for Richard Branson’s Ulusaba Lodge near Hazyview, believes the blaze may have been a blessing.
“I lost all my artwork, all the artwork Id done throughout my life, including an incomplete version of The Last Supper, which was three metres wide,” he said.
“But, I’m trying to see what I can collect from the rubble and maybe a collection, called Rejuvenation, might come out of it. Its a clean slate for me, a losing of the old self, which is always a good thing”.
Harem lived in a thatched homestead built on the edge of the escarpment in the 1960s with a view of the Barberton valley. It consisted of a main house and two cottages, all of which were destroyed.
He was in Gauteng when he received a call that his house was on fire and immediately called a friend to rescue his Dalmation and get his passport.
Lived in Israel, Kenya
Beside his art, he also lost books and art he’d collected from around the world, but is doing his best to remain positive.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason and I just have to figure out what that is,” he said.
Harem was born in Barberton, but left South Africa to avoid forced conscription into the army during apartheid. He travelled to Israel and then Kenya where eccentric Italian artist Armando Tanzini employed him as an apprentice.
He returned home and his big break came when he was awarded the Branson commission.