Beloved Knysna Artwork leaves South Africa

APRIL 21, 2016

A sculpture that’s stood at The Waterfront, Knysna, for fourteen years - and which was the subject of countless photographs and the background to countless selfies - has begun its journey to its new home in the USA.

‘Genesis’ was carved by Theodorus du Plessis out of the root-stump of a cypress tree that was felled when a block of flats in the town was converted into a hotel. The art work was commissioned by Jock McConnachie of local furniture makers and woodcrafters, Timber Village.

“Genesis has been sold to an American art collector who has a sculpture garden of his own,” said Jock. “And as sad as I am to lose it to Knysna, I’m very glad that it’s going to end up in such a good place.”

‘The Elephant,’ the sculpture that has now been installed in the north plaza of The Waterfront in place of Genesis, was carved by Timber Village staffer, Patric Chipala.

“The Elephant is very symbolic of the Knysna forests and our priceless timber heritage,” said Jock .

“As cabinet makers and wood crafters, we’re concerned with the art and culture of wood, but also with all aspects of forest conservation, preservation, and sustainable and responsible harvesting.”


“Like Genesis, the timber that Patric used to carve The Elephant came from a historic cypress tree,” said Jock. (Cypress or white cedar = Cupresses lusitanica.)

“We acquired it after it was blown down in a storm on a property at Brenton-on-Lake - and it was apparently originally one of an avenue of trees that was planted by George Rex nearly two hundred years ago.” (George Rex, 1765 - 1839, who settled in Knysna in 1804, would eventually own much of the land surrounding the Knysna Estuary. Amongst other things, he traded in and exported local timbers, and by 1811, held licenses for four hundred woodcutters.)


Patric said that he carved The Elephant about three years ago using a chain saw and grinder with an ArborTech attachment over a period of about 6 months.

“I learned my craft at home in Malawi, and I’m always doing sculpture - I’m currently doing a small rhino,” he said.

According to Greg Vogt, the CEO of Knysna & Partners, the town’s destination management and marketing organisation, timber remains an important sector of the town’s economy.

“Knysna is surrounded by the largest stands of indigenous evergreen forests in South Africa which are protected in the 160,000 hectare, unfenced Garden Route National Park, as well as in privately-owned forests - and it’s been associated with timber since before Rex’s day,” he said.

“Unfortunately the industry took quite a knock in the late 90s when plantation forestry was scaled down in the area - but it’s once again taking its rightful place thanks to people like Jock, and to initiatives like our annual Timber Festival, which aims to revive our timber heritage and rejuvenate the industry.”

He said that a number of local economic development initiatives have been put in place to train new artisans, to provide opportunities for them, and to preserve the older generation’s knowledge of timber and the forests.

“We hope to ensure the economic future of the industry by helping the officials who manage the supply of indigenous wood to understand why it’s so vital to make the wood accessible to local manufacturers,” he said.

“Given careful, scientific management, indigenous timber can be a sustainable resource that has the potential both to create and sustain jobs - and to create and sustain interesting tourism experiences and attractions like Genesis was, and The Elephant will become.”

Image: ‘Genesis’ by Theodorus du Plessis has been sold to an American collector.

More information:


Timber Village:

The Waterfront, Knysna:

View an interview with Patric and Jock on YouTube: