V&A Joy from Africa


Magpie Studio is in the heart of Barrydale, on the main road, just off the famous Route 62. The town, between the Overberg and Klein Karoo, is surrounded by farming, suburban, township and squatter-camp communities, which together form the heart of Barrydale. 

It’s an evolving community, says Magpie Studio co-founder and social entrepreneur Shane Petzer. 

One of the most exciting things about Barrydale’s evolution is the flourishing of home gardens that make this Little Karoo village uniquely picturesque. The Klein Huis Rivier, which passes through the village, is home to the Barrydale Red Fin Minnow, a threatened fish species only found in this area, and a big attraction to Barrydale. 

The pandemic has caused much suffering in this small community. Many enterprises, including Magpie Studio, have had to adjust their business. “Sadly, the Covid-19 situation impacted our team and we were forced to disband and reconfigure ourselves back into being a duo,” says Shane, who works with his partner, artist and designer Scott B Hart. “We are seeing hunger and poverty deepening in our rural parts – Barrydale is no exception. Covid-19 and lockdown have seen a death to the tourism industry along our ordinarily busy Route 62 village.”
Barrydale lies on the northern end of the Tradouw mountain pass to Swellendam. Driving to Barrydale affords visitors an opportunity to see the lush vegetation and beautiful mountains along Route 62. It’s the picturesque alternative to the N2 for those wanting to truly enjoy the scenic splendour of the Klein Karoo and Overberg regions. 

While the Klein Karoo is a semi-desert part of the Western Cape, it is also surprisingly verdant. There are many alternatives to get to Barrydale from George, which is less than three hours away and has the closest airport to the village. While taking the Garden Route via Mossel Bay offers pristine sea views along a huge part of the journey, and then goes through the scenic Heidelberg Mountain Pass, Route 62 is the most popular as a tourist drive. Along the way, visitors can explore nature reserves, the Little Karoo Wine Route and the Cango Caves, which are one of Southern Africa’s Seven Wonders.
October’s Barrydale in Bloom festival is a unique harvest showcase, where residents from farms, townships, suburbs and squatter camps show off what they have grown – from food to flowers. The festival is a forerunner to the annual Barrydale Arts Meander in December, which begins with the lighting of a Christmas tree on Reconciliation Day (16 December). The tree is made from upcycled materials by Magpie Studio.

“The installation is largely to collectively thank the village of Barrydale for all the gifts of recycling that we have gotten,” says Shane. “People in small communities want to recycle, so in essence, we are part of that possibility in our area. We take a lot of what could have landed in the landfill or, worse yet, in the sensitive river system right here in our town, with repercussions into the ocean. The expanding of events around that tree increases the time that visitors stay in our community, adding to a long-term appeal to reframe Barrydale’s perception as a place you pass through on Route 62 to a place you come to.” 

This three-day Barrydale Arts Meander is a delightful offering of open art studios, talks, workshops and puppet parades.


Intrinsic to Magpie’s process is the desire to creatively use found and discarded matter. The studio uses a lot of plastic lids, hundreds of recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic soda bottles and other materials left for waste. Essentially, this has always been the ethos underpinning Magpie’s approach: being eco-friendly or upcycling. 

In more recent times the method has evolved into a niche area of work with Magpie’s creation of Erfenis (heritage) Chandeliers, where commissioning customers bring objects of memory and sentimentality (such as old family jewellery, small objects and inherited collections, beads, buttons, earrings and necklaces) to be incorporated into the pieces. And so the chandelier becomes not only a functional and beautiful object, but also a purveyor of the family or individual’s narrative. 

A very strong social component in Magpie is the raising of awareness around environmental issues. “We have a small group of households that collect things for us as part of their own family household solutions to recycling and attempting to live greener lives in a small country town,” says Shane. “And Scott very often comes home from his daily walks with the dogs with packets of rubbish he's collected.” 
All the elements used to make the totem were found and repurposed in Barrydale, including the PET plastic. They were moulded into hearts, grass, Barrydale Red Fin Minnows and birds of happiness. A PET waterfall runs throughout Life, Love and Happiness, reaching its end in the lush flower meadow on the bottom layer, representing the public park that lies behind Magpie Studio, where the Magpie Christmas Tree is lit every festive season. 

As an endangered fish species uniquely found in the local river and stream systems for thousands of years, the Barrydale Red Fin Minnow’s perseveration is a central theme in the totem, explains Shane. “Ours is a multi-level story of totemising the concerns around our pollution and our disrespect for the river in our town, which is home to these fish that are dying out because of us humans. Our totem conveys concepts around love, life and the potential there is for happiness.”



Art created by

Magpie Studio

Totem Creator


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