Concentrated and deep thinking requires undisturbed, tranquil surroundings – and at STIAS the garden plays an important role to provide just that. The office of each Fellow offers its own private view of the garden – leafy, lush and quiet. It calms things down, stimulates reflection, but also invites Fellows to step outside, to explore the rambling outlay and to pause in one of its secluded nooks.
Mostertsdrift pre-dates the town of Stellenbosch by several years and is even older than Vergelegen in Somerset West and Groot Constantia in the Cape. In 1679 Simon van der Stel made agricultural land available in die Jonkershoek valley and Jan Mostert was one of the first to make use of this opportunity. As oewereiendom (a property bordering on a river), the farm had a guaranteed right to water from the Eersterivier – a right which stood the test of time. Each of the plots of the modern Mostertsdrift suburb (which was originally part of the farm) to this day enjoys this right. In the case of the old farmstead, this water source sustained an intricate irrigation system, as can be seen from the network of leivore (water furrows) in front of and at the back of the old manor house. The water was first collected in a large reservoir (which also served as a lily pond) and then distributed to the house itself, to drinking troughs for animals, to the flower garden in front and finally to the orchard and vegetable garden at the back.
Water symbolizes life in a dry country, and the leivoor running along the front of the manor house became the link to the future. The architect of the Wallenberg Research Centre used this as the backbone for his design and repeated the sight and sound of flowing water at the front and back entrance of the new building.
Through its long history, the garden itself went through many changes and iterations – from a simple farmstead garden to a luxurious Cape Victorian layout. When STIAS moved to Mostertsdrift in 2000, the garden was – after many years of neglect – a veritable jungle. It took many weeks of toil and the removal of cartloads of overgrowth before some of the old glory became visible again. It was decided to keep the informal outlay, the rambling and leafy style, the unexpected and secretive corners to augment the tranquil atmosphere and to entice Fellows to explore the garden for themselves. It remains a work in progress and currently new and exciting plans are taking shape.
During the Woordfees the STIAS garden will be open to public and more information can be found here.
Bernard Lategan: STIAS Founding Director