A quartet of shops fronting Koeberg Road, Brooklyn, close to the N1 exit, deceptively hides a veritable oasis.
Step through the doors of the Farmstall Restaurant into the courtyard and gardens, and you’ll be amazed to find a tranquil space that offers a refuge from the busy street outside. But don’t be misled, because there’s a hive of activity going on behind the shop façades.
The brainchild of artist Lisette Forsyth, who lives in Camps Bay, the Brooklyn Art Project (spelled BRKLYNPRJCT) has been a work in progress and there’s still so much to happen, she says, when we meet on a misty Thursday.
Last year, after letting down a friend on a promise and being deeply disappointed in herself, Lisette happened upon an advert for two properties on Koeberg Road that were going on auction.
“I felt it was almost a divine mission that I bid on the properties,” she says. “I thought it would be great to lead by example and to make a greener world and help out people in the community.”
Her bid was successful, and last August she took transfer of the property. Together with her business partner, Mark Matthysen, the pair have transformed the space and, putting their highly creative minds together, have managed to recycle, reuse and reinvent.
The buildings, even a few unfinished ones, have been remodelled with the clever use of several containers. At the back of the property, a container forms the ground floor and a second container, placed on top, has a “balcony” from which there’s a fabulous view, looking out over part of Brooklyn to Table Mountain.
Square-paned windows salvaged from one of the old buildings on the property are now used as walls for the greenhouse. Inside, it’s another verdant haven, filled with all manner of succulents; definitely the way to go with the current drought.
A wall fronting the restaurant area is fashioned from wooden slats retrieved from a Woodstock dump. There are antique milk cans; old wooden cart wheels; and a retro chest of drawers, already painted bright blue, that came out of one of the shops.
Lisette and Mark are skilled at sourcing and displaying objects that the less creative among us are content to throw away.
Zimbabwean Oscar Kucherera manages the project and does all the admin, while Blessed Slasha, also a Zimbabwean, runs the restaurant in which he cooks and sells local produce.
One of the shops houses a beauty school, another is a branch of Hidden Treasure charity stores. There is also an internet cafe where residents play games or message family and friends in neighbouring countries.
Lisette’s art is displayed around the complex, inspired by her observations of society.
Possibly the most impressive piece is a large multi-media mural of a woman rendered on the gallery’s outside wall.
Painting, cloths and even a wooden bird house help to complete the piece.
Lisette also recycles architect’s sheets to paint on and they get recycled a second time when they form the packets into which produce from the farmstall is packaged.
There are many plans for the future, including extending the recycling to the supermarket next door whereby those who bring in goods to recycle will be given coupons.
There’s also a plan to make more recycled green houses.
It seems the project is just the beginning of what is set to become a much bigger picture.
The Brooklyn Project is located on 57-59 Koeberg Road, Brooklyn. Call Oscar at 073 150 3358 or Lisette Forsyth at 082 646 4350 for details.