Scattered across South Africa’s countryside, often hidden along remote dirt roads, some farm gates transcend the mere functional purpose of marking the entrance to a piece of land. Treated as a type of vernacular design, these portals assume the form of sculpture when landowners seek to convey their personality in one of the few media available to them. Examples of this rural eccentricity extend from the conventional format rendered in a quirky or striking style, often enhanced by haunting settings, to illustrations of purely whimsical indulgence. The conventional view of agricultural aesthetics in South Africa is generally an unkind one. In fact the term ‘agricultural aesthetics’ is hardly ever used, owing to the general perception that farmers are dour folk with little appreciation of art, or scant interest in it. Like most generalisations, this notion proves untrue when it is investigated more thoroughly. Many icons of South African interior design originated in the homes of farmers. These range from ironic kitsch, such as the now-ubiquitous animal trophy horns, to kitchen enamelware, sturdy functional furniture and the beloved stoep, or veranda, which serves as the perfect intermediary social space between home and
outdoors. In its own quiet way, the vast hinterland of our country harbours an important element of its character, for better or worse, and it can be found right along the road – if you care to look.