Gregoire Johannes Boonzaier
DEMOLITION, OLD CAPE TOWN
R200 000 - R300 000
Sold for R224 000
Gregoire Boonzaier, born in Cape Town, 1909, had regular contact with a number of South Africa’s leading artists throughout his early and later years. As a small boy Boonzaier was exposed to the works of the Impressionists and Hague Schools, through his father’s reproductions. The style of the Hague painters had a particular attraction for him, together with the strong influence and teachings of Pieter Wenning, who also painted in a similar style. This is reflected in Boonzaier’s earlier works, which are reminiscent of the Cape winters and grey skies. In his early twentie, Boonzaier traveled to England, where he enrolled in courses in drawing, lithography and etching. In his travels around Europe he was exposed to the works of Cezanne, Degas, van Gogh, and Utrillo. The influence of Utrillo lingered after his return to South Africa, and is reflected in his passion for simple street scenes. In Cornwall he met Christopher Wood, whose primitive styles can be traced in a number of Boonzaier’s paintings including the early District Six and Malay Quarter street scenes.
District Six, which was essentially historical Cape Town, was notable for its diversity and cosmopolitan character as early as the 1860s – with the Coloured and Malay inhabitants predominantly occupying the upper District areas, while Europeans mainly the lower parts. At the time, District Six was described as “a rambling, untidy location. The houses and streets have a newly settled appearance … that of a busy, striving, energetic population having thrown themselves upon the soil, converted into bricks all but a small portion of it and built houses of every shape and kind”. A few decades later building in the region was thriving and many of the old two-storey and flat-roofed houses were converted to two and three storey blocks of flats built in a curious variety of architectural styles, with urns, gargoyles, faces of comedy, tragedy, scroll gables, and ornamental balconies.
In 1901 the first demolition of the slums of District Six were ordered, when the bubonic plague broke out in Cape Town. After some time, buildings were erected over these old sites. In the 1960s much of the area was demolished to necessitate the building of the Eastern Boulevard; a large part of the area’s character was destroyed in the process.
Text edited from F. P. Scott Gregoire Boonzaier 1964 Cape Town: Tafelberg-Uitgewers and http://beta.ancestry24.com/articles/places/the-origins-of-district-six