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Mother City

Curated by RESERVOIR for the Mount Nelson Hotel

12 February 2024


October 2024

Installation shots

Installation views: Mother City. RESERVOIR 2024. Photographer: Paris Brummer

Exhibiton text

To mark the Mount Nelson Hotel’s 125th birthday celebration in 2024, Mother City, a collection of artworks from the Norval Foundation’s Homestead Collection, curated by RESERVOIR, will be on show at the legendary Belmond property. Punctuating The Nellie’s grand halls and public spaces, artworks through the lens of 16 artists’ nuanced practices will find home at the hotel until October.


On the surface, Mother City is a concept that owes its name to Cape Town’s moniker as the first city settled by Europeans in South Africa, but the exhibition probes deeper. Exploring the notion of the mother as a nurturer, RESERVOIR founders Heinrich Groenewald and Shona van der Merwe have drawn from the country’s most prominent contemporary artists to question the constructs of this archetype. “The exhibition navigates the narratives that both celebrate and challenge traditional connotations of the ‘mother’ and the symbolic matrilineal connection to the Cape,” they explain. 


Displayed throughout Mount Nelson’s lounge, bar, reception, conservatory, and transitional spaces, this immersive collection of works spans mediums from painting, photography, and relief sculpture to tapestry and stitching. Among other leading lights in the art world, artists Thania Petersen, Igshaan Adams, Nicholas Hlobo, Bronwyn Katz, Bonolo Kavula, Athi-Patra Ruga and Zanele Muholi each offer a unique perspective on the subject. 


Some of them include traditional domestic mediums in their work; others like Cassi Namoda feature ancestral and mythological mother figures while Georgina Gratrix takes a characteristically satirical approach with her depiction of the devouring mother. “It’s a great honour to share part of the Homestead Collection with guests of Mount Nelson. As a leading 20th-century South African art collection dedicated to an expanded narrative, these works speak to the hotel’s reverence for its past and its insistence on being part of the future,” says Founder of the Norval Foundation, Louis Norval.


Globally, Belmond’s part in supporting the arts, its curators, and collectors in each of its global locations has been substantial. Locally, the Pink Lady—affectionately named after her emblematic painted façade—has been a cultural cornerstone for over a century. Set in the heart of Cape Town’s vibrant inner city and backed by Table Mountain, Mount Nelson fuses its impressive heritage with contemporary relevance and a cultural calendar that celebrates the country’s creative assets. 


The hotel’s partnership with Investec Cape Town Art Fair, its site-specific architectural artwork by renowned French artist Daniel Buren as part of MITICO 3.0 by Galleria Continua, and its annual Confections x Collections event, curated by Twyg, have been key to establishing and deepening the Nellie’s imaginative offerings. “Our intention at Mount Nelson is to create a welcoming and engaging space where our guests can celebrate the creativity, art and design coming from our continent and beyond,” says Tiago Sarmento, General Manager of the hotel. The addition of pieces from the Norval Foundation’s Homestead Collection can only augment this ever-evolving artistic endeavour. 


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For more information on the exhibition, the Norval Foundation's Collection, or RESERVOIR, please get in touch by submitting your details via the form.

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