Feedback on Lavender Hill fire appeal

Park Island resident, Beverley Roos-Muller, updates us on how community members helped victims of a devastating fire to turn their lives around.

Photo caption: Paul Kuiler stands at the doorway of his new wooden home, donated by the Weight family from the Marina.

When five Lavender Hill families lost literally everything they owned, after fire destroyed their shacks on the night of 19 May, the prompt compassion and generosity with which Marina residents responded was crucial in helping them restart their lives.

Bags of clothing, household linen and bedding and other much-needed household items have arrived daily. The Weight family generously sponsored a new wooden home for Paul Kuiler and his family. Now constructed on his site, it will radically change their living conditions. Lynne Weight has been on-site every day, in a particularly dangerous section of the shack village. Her energy and constructive contribution have been invaluable, as has that of Lara and (the other) Lynne. Te same applies to all of you who have taken time to think of their plight, and respond so kindly.

Some of the donated goods in Beverley’s house! “There is more,” she says, “including in my garage. Most of this will be moved to the families by the weekend.”

Responders stretched across every divide, including age. Little Lucy of Park Island brought a bright bucket of treats for seven-year-old Danielle Kuiler. Meanwhile Aunt Betty Pretorius of Retreat gave a bag of fine clothing, beautifully packed – she is about to turn 90! And said that, as a former victim of the Group Areas Act, she did so because she knew what it felt like to lose everything.

The fire department must be commended for arriving so promptly, within minutes – helping to limit the spread of fire to only the five affected shacks. City of Cape Town officials have participated; watching site-and-service delivery there, every day, reassuring us that our rates are being put to essential use.

The wonderful Aunt Betty Pretorius of Retreat.

One of the first donations was from little Lucy of Park Island; this lovely bucket of treats for seven-year-old Danielle Kuiler, who was thrilled.

The appeal is now closed except for funding, which has been critical; there were so many unexpected expenses (and still are), from transport to communications, school needs, as well as food.

Thank you on behalf of those whose lives were shattered one fiery night, and who are now beginning to face the future with new hope and dignity.

Read Beverley’s original appeal here.

Photos: Beverley Roos-Muller

Ali Lauren Melck: celebrating nature

One of the attractions that made the launch of our First Thursdays at Frank’s such a success was the wonderful work displayed by some of our local Marina da Gama artists. The delicately coloured, deftly executed fine art prints by Ali Lauren Melck were a particular highlight on the crisp autumn evening.

Born and raised in Chicago, Ali studied fine art with a focus in photography. She came to South Africa in 2005 as a volunteer in social development and creative projects while working as a photographer back in the U.S. for several seasons in between. Now based in Cape Town, she has been pursuing painting as a practising studio artist, primarily in oil, ink and watercolours. She enjoys using her photography to provide reference images of birds and landscapes, an implements an eye for colour, composition and light to brilliant effect in her paintings.

Ali uses her photographic skills to capture reference images for her fine art works.

Fascinated by fynbos and the birds that call it home, Ali has come to care about the Cape’s rich natural heritage of biodiversity. As she points out: “Photographing, drawing and painting requires observation and getting to know something in a deeper way. This paying attention leads to an awareness of the interconnectedness of all things and a concern about the balance of nature. As I’ve been rooting myself in South Africa over the past 17 years, my creative practice helps me to feel more connected to and part of this natural world.”

As a member of the South African Society of Artists, the Watercolour Society of South Africa and the Constantiaberg Art Society, Ali exhibits several times a year at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. A number of quaint shops around Cape Town stock her limited-edition fine art prints, including the nearby Gina’s Studio on Palmer Road in Muizenberg and Mzuri Mamas at the Kalk Bay Village Square. For the month of May, she is having an online prints sale at

From seascapes and landscapes, birds to botanicals, Ali’s repertoire celebrates the particular beauty of the Cape. While her watercolours evoke the upbeat light touch of a Dufy or Matisse, her landscape oils strike more bold, dramatic notes. Her home studio goes through phases of order and chaos and holds her own evolving natural history collections of delft pottery shards and beach glass along with seed pods, nests and other pieces of nature found on walks. She and her husband, Marcus, moved to Eastlake Island last year and enjoy the natural beauty of the Park Island reserve and the peacefulness of the Marina lifestyle.

With several themed collections in mind, Ali is looking forward to stormy weather with lots of studio time as well as hiking in the blooming fynbos and capturing the wintery light over the landscapes as inspiration for some oil paintings. We’re already looking forward to seeing – and possibly showing – the results once she has worked her highly distinctive magic.

Meanwhile, if you would like to see Ali’s creative process unfolding on Instagram, follow her @alilaurenmelck.

Photo of Ali: Patrick McKenna

Carol Andrews: a rare talent for unique work

In the second feature in our series on local craftspeople and artists, we introduce Eastlake Island resident, Carol Andrews. Following a long and successful career in the travel industry, she now focuses full-time on creating pewterware, mosaics and other highly original craftworks from her home studio. She is also an accomplished painter.

“I first started studying art through UNISA then at Wits before I was persuaded by a client to run a travel agency he had just set up, initially in Honeydew, Joburg,” recalls Carol. “When I eventually retired from Travelways in Pinelands four or five years ago, one of my clients offered to pay for my pewter work lessons. So, in a sense, my life has come full circle.”

Carol draws rich inspiration from her surroundings in the Marina, where she has lived for the last five years. “The water, the light, the plants, the birds… We are so lucky to live here,” she says. Another source of nearby inspiration is her current teacher, Juli Jana, who also lives and works in the Marina. As her student explains: “Juli is an extremely talented lady who combines art with poetry and holds frequent exhibitions. She uses all the mediums but loves to teach watercolour.”

Carol also pays tribute to a number of other teachers, including Jo Cooke, who always emphasised the importance of drawing as the basis of all good paintings. “Jo has moved to Ireland,” comments Carol, “but she teaches online and we are still in touch.”

Carol’s latest passion is decoupage, the art of decorating objects by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf and other decorative elements. “This is new for me,” she says. “It’s sticky and messy but gives extraordinary results.”

As well as crafting and painting, Carol is also a keen writer and is currently in the process of drafting her autobiography. Given her fascinating background, the final book is bound to be a great read. Born in the UK, Carol later lived in Zimbabwe, where her father, Alex Inglesby, played an influential role in shaping the country’s post-Federation tourist industry as a member of Ian Smith’s government. Anyone who ever enjoyed a Flame Lily break has Mr Inglesby to thank!

Right now, Carol’s book remains a work in progress as she focuses on producing her highly original pieces. To see – and possibly buy – her work for yourself, please join us at Frank’s in Eastlake Shopping Centre from 7.00pm on 5 May for our inaugural First Thursdays event.

“UNISA in Pretoria was where I learned the most. I particularly remember one teacher who said he disliked streams and trees in a chocolate box setting. He liked to see drama in our art. When I accidentally hung one of my pictures upside down, he said that was the one he liked.”

Photos: Patrick McKenna

Carmen Copestake: upbeat art in tough times

Last month, we announced plans to hold an Open Studios event towards the end this month. The idea was to give the Marina’s artists and craftspeople an opportunity to invite visitors into their homes to show and possibly sell their work. Rather like our Open Gardens initiative.

While many creatives welcomed the idea, we decided to cancel the initiative out of respect for the fact that more people expressed concern about having strangers in their homes. Understandable, perhaps.

But when one door closes, as they say, another one opens. And one of the doors that will be opening to visitors later this year belongs to Carmen Copestake, one of our community’s brightest creative talents. Joining artistic forces with other creatives in her circle, she plans to hold a group exhibition in her garage on Eastlake Island. Dates and times are still TBC, but visitors are certainly in for a treat.

Originally from Joburg, Carmen started out as an actress before working as a teacher for many years. She started getting into art seriously after moving to Knysna and has continued to draw, paint and sculpt since moving to the Marina five years ago. Starting with watercolours, she has since other painting mediums, life drawing and sculpture – all to brilliant effect.

Carmen is quick to pay tribute to the teachers she has learned from down the years. Among others, she makes special mention of painter Sue Kemp, as well as painter, Leon Vermeulen, ceramic artist, Chris Smart, and her current teacher, Paul Birchall, all of them well worth a Google. Her work also reflects a wide cross-section of inspirations, from Gaugin and Henry Moore to van Gogh and Picasso, ‘who is everywhere,’ she comments, adding “Picasso said something to the effect that any artist who doesn’t steal from other artists is a fool.”

Of course, the quality defines a true artist is an ability to internalise (perhaps steal) external influences then synthesise them into something unique. Seeing Carmen’s work first-hand makes it clear that she has this elusive quality in abundance and the work it produces is the result of raw, pure talent.

The upbeat ebullience of pieces such as Vuka! and Vuvuzela Man along with her sculpture of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu make a great antidote to our turbulent times. Little wonder that Vuka! Made such an impact when it went on show as part of the Zeitz MOCCA’s memorable Home Is Where The Art Is exhibition. A pair of bronzes inspired by her grand-daughters, Ella and Lucy, are rather more serene yet equally beautiful.

Ditto Carmen’s paintings –executed in watercolour, pastel and oils. And then there is the hidden trove of perfectly executed speed sketches that she stores in a magnificent antique chest. As Carmen explains, these are the product of the life drawing classes at Kalk Bay’s community centre, which she attends every week – without fail.

Carmen’s naturally lit home and its perfectly maintained garden provide the perfect setting to show off her distinctively quirky art. If you would like chat to her about her work and see it first-hand, feel free to contact her on 083 326 3311 or

We look forward to bringing you details of her planned exhibition later this year. For now, let’s leave the photos do the talking!

Photos: Patrick McKenna

Meet Dominique – our new Events person

The Marina da Gama Association Executive Committee (MDGA ExCom) is pleased to introduce our newest member, Dominique Erasmus, who now heads up our Events portfolio.

“I am an energetic, outdoors type of person, so the Cape Town lifestyle suits me to a tee,” says Dominique. Originally from Durban, she grew up in a military family which moved around the country as the job demanded. “As a result, I did most of my schooling up-country, in Pretoria and Settlers.”

After leaving school, Dominique carved out a career in the hospitality industry, specialising in giving her guests the best possible experiences and memories.

Her links with the Marina date back to 2002, when her mother, Rene, bought a house here. “I would move in with her from time to time, between hospitality jobs in different locations. When COVID hit, the industry took a real beating and I moved in with my mother permanently. I subsequently joined Seef as its Marina da Gama letting agent.”

Dominique’s creative energy and talents are already making her a great asset to the ExCom. She has recently announced plans for the inaugural Bridge Fair, a celebration of food, crafts and trade scheduled to take place in Uitsig Park before the MDGA’s Christmas Carol event on 19 December. Find out more here.

On a personal note, Dominique’s next plan is to find her own spot here on the water. For now, she continues to enjoy Marina life to the full. “I’m also a real animal lover. So, I particularly enjoy going for a run or taking the dogs for a walk around the islands to see what we can discover. The Marina really is Cape Town’s best-kept secret.”

Welcome to the team, Dominique!