JitsvingerCONSTELLATIONS. Curated by Brett Bailey. Featuring 27 Fire Guardians. Spier.


With the kind of year we’ve had, I think we can all do with a little bit of magic in our lives. Not to mention a getaway from our gadgets, room for reflection, and space to smile. I got all of that – and more – when I went to the opening night of the Constellations series at Spier in Stellenbosch.

The brainchild of uber-theatre-maker Brett Bailey, with the assistance of a team of theatre angels, Constellations is carried out, as the name implies, under the stars. When audiences arrive at the Spier wine farm, they’re divided into different groups and then led through the verdant estate gardens to a series of campfires. Each setting is removed from the other, so you are literally in your own circle of light. And each circle has its own Guardian, a person who hosts you by the fire.

Bailey explains that he compiled “a diverse team of 27 fascinating, talented and compelling people” to be Guardians. They are artists, poets, musicians, performers, historians, storytellers, writers, dreamers, raconteurs, mystics, thinkers … some well-known, some hidden gems. The Guardian presents an experience: every campfire reveals a new surprise.

It’s a beautiful idea, and it’s beautifully executed. Walking along the Eerste River at twilight, being led to the first of our campfires, was an auspicious start – quiet, gentle, yet infused with a group sense of curiosity.

Constellations: A magical space

All linked by great integrity

And none of the three campfire sessions disappointed. On the contrary, they were rich, thoughtful and joyous experiences, all different, yet all linked by great integrity. And yes, the word that has been used so much this year, but is still relevant – kindness.

I won’t reveal who hosted me, because I think the surprise factor is a big part of the encounter. (Although to drop some Guardian names: Dizu Plaaitjies, Jemma Khan, Jitsvinger, Malika Ndlovu, Philippa Kabali-Kagwa, Rob van Vuuren, Rehane Abrahams, Daniel Jardim – and more). But I will say that the wellness counsellor, the performance artist and the musician held each group with great sensitivity, with passion, with focus and often with delight.

Returning back through the darkened bush, smelling of wood smoke and feeling full in a different way to having eaten a lot – priceless. Do yourselves a favour and try it.

Just to say: We were treated to a Spier picnic before the show, which is a great way to start the evening. Crusty bread, crisp salads, cheese and wine and pud – all good.

Final comment: I would maybe reduce the length of each session by 5 to 10 minutes. They are intense, they are special – and they don’t need to be too long. Coupled with the walks, it adds up to a long-ish night, and it felt like less could be more. Just my thought.

What: Constellations at Spier

Dates: 28 November, 3-5, 10-12, 17-19 December 2020

Time: Arrive at 7.30pm

Price: R150 per person, includes a glass of Spier Creative Block wine on arrival.

R800 per couple including a sunset picnic and a bottle of Spier Creative Block.

Tickets: Webtickets

Photograhs feature: Dizu Plaaitjies and Jitsvinger