The Owl House

The Owl House



Weird to some, wonderful to others, the Owl House in Nieu-Bethesda is a work of outsider art created by Helen Martins between 1945 and 1976. Driven to despair by the dullness of her daily life, she took steps to transform her world with light, colour and texture. Helen used cement, glass and wire to decorate her home, and later built sculptures in her garden. In 1964, she was joined by Koos Malgas who helped her construct the sculptures of owls, camels, and people. After years of her eyes being exposed to fine crushed glass, her eyes began to fail, causing her to commit suicide by ingesting caustic soda in 1976 at the age of 78. According to her wishes, the Owl House has been kept intact as a museum and declared a provincial national monument in 1991.

A procession of camels and wise men are making their way “east”. The caravan is in fact traveling north to south and not true east. Helen has written the words “East/Oos” on the boundary fence, creating a place where the sun and moon rise and the direction in which men turn to in prayer. The whole of the Owl House and Camel Yard is filled with many stories and themes, inspired by books and images. Welcome to Helen’s Mecca.

Martins Street, Nieu-Bethesday

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