People who know us, know too, that Summerhill and Hartford have long been worshippers of authenticity, originality, the upholding of tradition and the preservation of the environment. The rewards for our adherence to these things have been in ample supply this week, with the announcement on Friday that John Motaung had become the second of our graduates of the School Of Management Excellence in three years to make top student at the English National Stud. In a matter of days, our traditional dance troupe, the Ngobamakhosi, were overjoyed by an invitation to perform at the Edinburgh Festival at the end of July, where the live audience numbers more than 4 million, and their performance is witnessed by however many viewers who tune into the BBC.
In the same week, Rossouw's Guide lauded the Hartford restaurant as the principal champion of the use of local produce, an aspect of the guest experience here which distinguishes us from those urban eateries that have liberal access to the enticement of imported ingredients. There are those that would say we have little choice, isolated as we are, yet our remoteness is fundamental to what you find on your plate: local is "mnandi."
The term "African time" has been used in jest for centuries to refer to the relaxed approach to time in Africa, which prioritises relationships and experience over revenue and productivity. Funny though, how this tradition is becoming a trend the world over, as more weary Westerners revert to values and wellbeing. Slow food, slow design, slow living.
It usually takes excess to turn us off something. In this case, the overdose is mass-produced perfection and slick consumerism. Air-tight, airbrushed, air-conditioned. Having traded communities and tradition for corporations and technology in the name of progress and profit, we're now questioning the cost of this exchange, and investing again in sustainable well-being and meaningful fulfilment. Wholesome, home-made, authentic are the new currencies, and you'll find them in generous supply in life at Summerhill and Hartford House.
"Slow" embraces craft artefacts, vernacular design and generations of traditional evolution. Go to Google, and you’ll get hundreds of hits for craft sites, knitting classes, book clubs, cooking courses and all sorts of hobbies making a massive comeback. This is not the domain of Auntie Bertha and her blue-rinse brigade, but rather of hip young people seeking traditional skills and a sense of cultural heritage and tradition. The news of our dancers descending on Edinburgh has already been greeted by those who know them with elation, unlike those British soldiers that faced their fury at Isandlwana in 1879; this time the trepidation is with our Zulus, many of whom are on their maiden voyage abroad, though a small core were part of our earlier team which distinguished itself in far-away places like Tokyo and Hong Kong. Big as those two were, nothing touches Edinburgh.
The reversion to authenticity is an answer to the real needs of people, space, communities and the environment. Sustainability has given greater value to things that endure, to antiques, the creative arts and healthy living. It privileges the hand of the maker and celebrates the idiosyncrasies of things imperfect, aging and organic as an antidote to slick, stylised perfection. A witty spin-off is the move to creating instant "antiques", intentionally factoring flaws into designs. There is no greater compliment to the things we hold dear, that impersonators devote so much energy to the recreation of the things we celebrate every day. Slow, African time... it's about time!