Friday, September 17, 2010

The Port Elizabeth beachfront

Having arrived in Port Elizabeth in July, 1984, from East London, I soon grew to love the beachfront. Very different to the tall dune-flanked beaches of my youth, the Algoa Bay beaches, especially those in the city, are largely bordered by buildings, but they remain charming in their own way. I don't know how my then wife put up with me, because, from the many drawings I have done, I must have spent an inordinate amount of time scribbling away. I was at a stage, too, when I went back home and watercoloured virtually everything I did.

This is a view towards the high-rise apartment blocks of Summerstrand. The foreground rocks are at what today is Hobie Beach, which developed after the construction of the Shark Rock Pier around 1990.

Hobie Beach, again prior to the pier being built. This was primarily a point from which hobie-cats, like the one on the right, were launched. Today it is one of the city's most popular bathing beaches, thanks to the sandy beach which developed with the construction of the pier.

One of the joys of the beachfront is to walk among the rocks at low tide, as this group are doing, checking out what there is to see in those wonderful pools.

Then gaze out into the bay and you're sure to see a yacht or two sailing by. I think this, too, was at a time before the advent or those awfully noisy jet-skis, which can ruin a peaceful day at the beach.

Remember this was the apartheid era, so under that pernicious system black people were not allowed on the city's beaches. Anyway, here two friends catch up while seated on the low sea wall at Hobie Beach.

Another beachfront patron relaxes on that sea wall.

The pathway stretches from King's Beach in the east past Humewood Beach, Hobie Beach and Pollok Beach, with numerous sheltered coves in between. Further west you'll find the Cape Recife nature reserve with its vast expanse of unspoilt beaches and numerous bird species, including the roseate tern and, if you're lucky, African penguin. Here two lads on roller skates come up behind a woman taking a stroll.

Another charming aspect of the bay is the presence of ships either arriving or leaving port, or simply at anchor. Sometimes there will be a scrummage of fishing boats, when the chokka fishermen head back home in a hurry ahead of a cold front. And of course amidst these larger vessels are the hobie-cats, yachts and windsurfers.

What could be a more tranquil sight than a ship at anchor on a placid sea?

Old friends. A couple soak up the relaxed atmosphere on a bench at what is now Hobie Beach, which was totally redeveloped around 1990, when the old Windmill roadhouse was demolished, although its remnants were retained.

From Hobie Beach, a gentle curve of warm yellow sand beside blue surf, then a small rocky outcrop heralds the start of Pollok Beach.

I've used some bright colours here, capturing I hope some of the fun of windsurfing.

Another windsurfer enjoying the calm waters of the bay.

And what a bay it is! From the rocks of the shoreline, this is a view of ships, and yachts, against a backdrop of the distant hills marking the far edge of Algoa Bay.

Not my best effort, but sometimes when the wind blows yachts are able to really get up a head of steam, like this one.

A more sedate pastime is simply lazing on the sandy beaches. I apologise for the "trunk" in the foreground, with a coke bottle behind his head, which somehow had to be integrated into the main image of the voluminous woman.

Getting down among the rock pools.

Or just standing around, soaking up the sun.

And the characters certainly come out to play.

A tanker puffs smoke as a wind-energised yacht offers an alternative.

I grew up watching ships from the windows of our Bonza Bay home in East London, so any chance to draw them is a pleasure.

That happy pairing of ship and yacht.

Children love sea sand - and the comfort of a parent's lap.

A reclining sun-lover.

Pregnant, with two children already out and about.

I'm actually amazed at some of the effects I got as a clearly had a lot of fun with those watercolours. Clearly the aim is not to make pictures that ape the real world. The sketch itself is already a distortion, so who's to say what the play of light will do?

While the apartheid-era beaches barred black people, the authorities were happy to allow them on to clean up after the whites - or to look after their children.

Here, in a few lines, a mother and child.

A composite of people and gulls.

A kelp gull, probably, or possibly a grey-headed gull. Again, I've used colour with a liberal, almost reckless, abandon. It is the final composition that matters most.

This was a regular sight at the old Windmill roadhouse at Hobie. Much like Something Good, which still stands at Pollok though it's closed, people would drive up and waiters would serve them while they soaked up the sea view. And there would always be gulls around to pick up any crumbs, or slap chips.

A few gull heads.

And a human head.

Another character spotted on the beachfront.

A bold stroke of red lifts this work. It could just as easily have wrecked it.

What this woman was doing I can't recall, possibly walking a child, or enjoying the rock pools. I like the fact that she seems to be floating.

As I said, black people were allowed on the beach - if they were cleaning, as this woman seems to be doing.

This woman's head scarf gives her a Florence Nightingale look.

The bottom oke is a fisherman reeling in, probably on rocks near the water spout at Pollok, while faces also feature.

And to end on a fitting note. A woman, delicately poised on incredibly high heels, with a gull on her head.

No comments:

Post a Comment