Carving history and stories into The Homestead

Blessing Gapa is an enterprising and dynamic artist who was born in 1985 in Gutu, Zimbabwe. He is from a rural agricultural area and began carving wood at an early age. Using just one axe, he would make cattle yokes, plows, cooking sticks, mouse traps — and fix his mother’s cooking utensils too!

Blessing’s little angels started his wood carving career; there will be a number of his works of South African wood carving art, featured in The Homestead. They are the perfect addition to the aesthetic of the luxury safari lodge we are creating.

His love of woodcarving guided him to take a three-year Woodcarving Course in Masvingo at the Driefontein mission. Then, economic factors brought him to South Africa. He arrived as a young man with no family in the country. To raise funds to buy wood carving tools, he worked as a seasonal worker picking apples in Grabouw, just outside Cape Town, South Africa.

By 2010 this unstoppable artist had manifested his company: Hohodza Wood Carving. It is named after the South African Woodpecker, a bird that is a natural wood carver — like Blessing himself.

He uses wood from alien trees such as Jacaranda, Camphor and Bloodwood. These trees are not harvested, they are often just felled. Blessing takes this wood and repurposes it into his beautiful works of art.

The little wooden angels were the first works of his art that people began to adore. They have made him into one of the leading local South African wood carving artists.

“I made the first one as a test of my wood carving skills. Then one day, an image of an angel came into my mind — and I ended up making 1000. Each angel takes about 2 days to make,” Blessing said.

He sells his artworks at the local Farmers’ Market, and that is where his angels blessed him! It’s where he met Greg and Roche Dry, from Egg Design, who are leading the overall interior design concept for The Homestead.

Now, Blessing’s South African wood carving is an integral part of The Homestead’s sustainable, locally sourced art. He has carved legs of coffee tables, and more including a sculpture of The Captain’s Head. This wooden sculpture tells the story of the man behind the original Captain’s Table. The Captain’s Head is being carved as an abstract concept, so guests at The Homestead can use thier imagination as to what he looked like. The sculpture will then be charred, like the Captain’s Table. This charring is a Japanese technique called Shou Sugi Ban, and it protects the wood against fire and insects.

“When it cracks, we will fill it with gold,” Greg said. The Captain’s Table will be a real centrepiece of South African wood carving art.

In addition to all that, Blessing is carving a totem that will be stationed by the main pool and is also working on a flight of 35 birds of 3 different sizes, made of wire work. This is a flock of birds that will be installed as though flying through the main lodge of The Homestead to the swimming pool.

Greg, from Egg Design, explained that the birds were a lighter, more humorous touch to the design of The Homestead and will be coloured a rich terracotta colour.

The birds being created, by Blessing, for The Homestead will not represent specific birds, but are generic, to honour the wire craft of naivety and simplicity; and to sing to the souls in flight who have come to The Homestead to enjoy the journey of adventurous self-discovery that is included here in their luxury safari experience.