ROOTS Multi-sensory exhibition

ROOTS was a multi-disciplinary exhibition based on the theme of roots, both literal and ancestral.
I collaborated with 10 creatives to bring this to life and it ran for 1 month in April 2016, in a new exhibition space on Bree Street in Cape Town called UPSTAIRS by [spasie].

Greg Zeleny (of [spasie] fame) and myself wanted to do something together and quite by chance, as timing would have it, he had just become involved in the new space on Bree Street with Dean Hoffman of Wildetecture. I chose this to be the base of an edible installation and it snowballed into the exhibition.

ROOTS as a theme was something I had been thinking of for a while and was such an organic process from when I first saw the space with all those beams to the day we went live. It took hold, much like the rope roots from my installation into the beams and grew little by little with the exploration into wild food and the addition of each collaborator or artist that joined me in the journey.

I started by looking simply at edible roots in all their forms. I found that there are hundreds of different kinds of roots – firstly you have true roots which are things like beetroot and carrot, then tubular roots – the humble potato, bulbs which are things like leeks and fennel and then the amazing rhizomes which are the ginger, wasabi and turmeric type of root. So many colourful, diverse and interesting varieties.
Just like us.
Humans were first ‘born’ in Africa and from this, so many wonderfully contrasting and colourful variations formed over millions of years and travelled and settled in all the corners.
I am a third generation South African with skin that burns like paper in the African sun. I was born here; she fed me, nurtured and watered me.
I grew here, Africa is my root. With all the recent turmoil in our beautiful land, I questioned my roots for the first time, which I had always taken for granted.
Here I express myself in the way I know best, through food, flavour, art and design.
– Caro de Waal, April 2016

ROOT installation and edible experience
by Caro de Waal, production by Vagabond Kitchen

The table which is 6m long was built inside the space by Wildetecture architect, Dean Hoffman. I used 50m of sisal rope to create a root-like appearance – as if the table was growing into the beams above. The table was then filled with bushels and plants found on the mountains of the Cape, I used them all in the dishes I created, the food was then placed on the table on wood slices of wild olive.
The food production and collaboration by the talented team at Vagabond Kitchens.

roots_details1 roots_details2

ED_eland ED_plate

Work and the artists

‘Inside’ – X-rays of roots on light box, both literal and ancestral
by Caro de Waal

Wood, Perspex, LED, x-ray negatives

This is a representation of looking within. How do you feel about where you come from and where you are? On one lightbox are literal roots, carrot, leeks, beetroot and more; on the other lightbox, ancestral roots in the form of our wild edible fynbos such as sceletium, wild pelargoniums, buchus, aloes and more.
X-rays done at the Rondebosch Morton & Partners radiology unit.
Many thanks to the team there who tirelessly helped on this project.
‘Morton & Partners Radiologists – Taking Radiology into the future.’

ED_garlic_xray ED_xrays

Foulbrood” (FILM)

A representation of the roots of the food and life cycle, slowly and inexorably falling to pieces. As a humanity no longer in touch with it’s food sources consistently fails to recognise the apocalyptic ramifications of what is set to be the most significant extinction event in the planet’s history, the inherent simple beauty and hope in the bee and its function as the root of our existence becomes all the more visible.
Take a moment to regard the food in your hand and consider how it came to be.
Shot on location at a private urban bee-keeping operation in Newlands, Cape Town 2016
Sledgehammer Studio
Music: “Turquoise” Poddington Bear

‘Tree of Life’
by Caro de Waal
The translation of the word ‘root’ in our 11 official languages printed on edible sugar paper infused with various roots.

Wire, edible vanilla sugar paper, beetroot, carrot, ginger, turmeric.
Trees are a very relatable and strong representation of roots. This African tree made by an African bears the fruit of our 11 official languages.
Please do take a piece and enjoy ‘eating your roots’.
Wire artist – Tinashe Mutizwa
– who made the tree, he is a Zimbabwean who has been ‘uprooted’ from his own country and found his new root here, in South Africa.

EDedibleroots2 ED_tree

by Hein van Tonder, photographer
Are we as humans that triumphant as we choose to disrupt nature in the quest for advancement and survival?

Artichoke plant, matte vinyl.
Photographed from the vantage point beneath the plant, an artichoke plant is ‘triumphantly’ pulled from the soil. The series does not aim to cast any blame but rather to pause and think of the consequences of our actions.
Photographed on location at The Wild Bunch Flower Farm in Wellington, South Africa, April 2016.


by Hein van Tonder, photographer & Caro de Waal collaboration
“Even though my roots are not here, I am still able to grow and flourish” – Alex Chen, Cape Town, South Africa
Clay and turmeric mask, edible glitter, matte vinyl.
The mask signifies the importance and joy of self-expression, creativity and not conforming to what others think we should be. As the mask dries and cracks it reveals the beauty of being confident in your own skin. No matter what your roots are.
Alex Chen photographed in Cape Town, South Africa, April 2016.


‘The Root of Colour’
An exploration of natural colours using beetroot and turmeric. The roots find their way back to nature, but in a different form.

by Jan Ras in collaboration with Caro de Waal
Beetroot, turmeric, white cotton, lemon, art paper.
We study 2 vibrant root colours found in nature. Beetroot (true root) and turmeric (rhizome).
The ‘animation’ series shows the process of adding the natural colours to the fabric.
The second makes reference to the age-old technique of the dying of fabric with natural plant colours.
Jan is an avid land art photographer and the last of the series takes the roots back to a natural environment, but in a different form.
The turmeric fabric hanging beside the works is the fabric that was used in the shoots. Please feel free to engage with it and engulf your senses in its unique fragrance.
Photographed in studio and on location in Tokai forest in Cape Town.

ED_beetrootJAN ED_turmeric


For example, Jan Ras and myself brainstormed together to come up with the concept of the pure living colour of roots. I was dying the fabric to integrate into my installation and so we chose this as the base point. It kind of designed itself as we shot it which was very interesting and the small ‘animations’ were an element which I loved as we could showcase them on both a static and digital platform. I really wanted to demonstrate how art can be made, and enjoyed on an array of cross-media. Be it printed on art paper, to an animation on Instagram. His love for land art was integral for me to include in his series as this is such a part of his passion.

Hein van Tonder and I collaborated on his series ‘Alex’ – it was an idea that snowballed during a conversation and created what I think was a very powerful and evocative piece. It has such layers in it’s meaning and was my first stab at makeup and styling a portrait, Hein brought it to life behind the lens and it was sold a few times over during the exhibition.
Other artists such as Sledgehammer Studios who produced that amazing film about ‘Foulbrood’ was purely their interpretation of my theme of roots as with Stefan and @kosje.

The inspiring Vagabond team who worked with me on the food was also a lovely collaboration between chefs with a like-minded passion for our local, wild food and the magic that surrounds it. As well as beauty on a plate that at the end of the day, tastes great and inspires the palate but is also accessible to all.
I think the collective power of so many artists in different forms created a beautiful exhibition both sensory and artistic. I don’t believe you have to be well-known to be part of an exhibition,

An artistic interpretation of the word ‘ROOT’
by Xandri Redelinghuys
Vrugte van die nuwe seisoen:
‘ROOT’ – something that establishes deeply and firmly, the origin, an underlying support, the essential core.
You are the fruits of your fathers, but will your roots determine your routes?

We all allow parts of our past and heritage to define our present, our being, thoughts, actions and emotions. We allow it to define who we are and determine where we are going. As my life is on the brink of a new season, I find myself raw, vulnerable, clutching to my roots, clinging to what I believe to be truth and the answers embedded in my genes through generations of trial and error. I seek comfort in the familiar, hoping but anxious, uncertain but content: How will I let my roots determine my routes and affect my future.
*Using pieces of Breyten Breytenbach’s poetry from his ‘die windvanger’ to help colour with words, feelings and thoughts, April 2016.


iPhone on instagram
by @kosje

this southern tip of africa.
south africa.
western cape.
i’m here.
by choice of course.
the ancestors are from across the ocean.
from the netherlands.
or possibly germany.
could also be denmark, vikings they say.
born in the free state.
in a small town.
in the middle of the republic.
but I’m here.
the mothercity.
and this is where I am, here.
the landscapes that I love, are here.
the light is here.
what I see, is here.
my people, they are here.
he is here.
my love, is all here.
my heart, rooted, here.


Hahnemühle Museum Etching 350gsm, 100% cotton paper. 

by Stefan Snyman
Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson has pointed out that the human DNA responsible for metabolising sugar is present in trees. Because of this, he suggests we share a common ancestry with trees. Thus, each species, though different in kind, sits at the end of a branching fibrous root, each sharing a common stem on this biological family tree.


Thank you to each and every artist who was part of this exhibition, the amazing team at UPSTAIRS, Dean Hoffman, Charlotte, the dynamic team at Vagabond and Marcelle for wondrous drink design.
Thank you Ninja Mariese for all your help.