WORDS Phendu Kuta IMAGES Supplied
Grounded in nature and situated in the Cradle of Humankind, FARMHOUSE – a new regenerative travel venue – combines wabi-sabi with African design to create a unique accommodation experience.
A raw and grounded place to stay in nature, within short hiking distance of a spring where zebra and wildebeest can occasionally be seen, FARMHOUSE was first conceptualised some years ago. When Bheki Dube – who is the founder of local hotel brand Curiocity – was invited to view the property in the Cradle of Humankind, within the wider 58 project and the Nirox Foundation, he instantly recognised its potential.
Steeped in history, the location was home to a dairy farm for several decades. Then, over the past few years, it was used as a publishing house, before being redeveloped into a unique place to stay. The design team’s aim was to repurpose the existing structure while retaining its character. As a result, the building’s history is evident in the imperfections and marks of time etched into the walls – and the result is a characterful place with a unique and tranquil atmosphere.
The design of FARMHOUSE’s spaces is inspired by several principles, including wabi-sabi. In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is a philosophy focused on the acceptance of imperfection. It’s about appreciating beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.
“The design is also inspired by early and current African architecture, where we resided in concentric circles,” says Bheki. Even the FARMHOUSE branding, he explains, features “an imperfect circle” that pays “homage to how we lived in African homes. It is rooted in our heritage, right down to the soil tones that you find in this landscape.”
A stay at FARMHOUSE is an experience far removed from a conventional hotel or traditional accommodation style: visiting this place is about being aligned to wellness, wellbeing and a centred way of being. It is regenerative travel, during which guests can connect with themselves and with nature in order to truly rest and rejuvenate. In addition, wellness – identified as one of the key pillars of FARMHOUSE – is seen as being intertwined with the arts, and with agro-ecological farming too.
From its construction to the design of its interiors, FARMHOUSE was completed entirely by the in-house team, with materials sourced from local suppliers. “We developed this place during a pandemic,” says Bheki. “It gave us focus, and allowed us to work with what we have. No international product imports or exports were taking place at the time – so we looked for, and were able to find, the many hidden treasures of local suppliers. We worked with what we had access to.”
Part of the long-term 58 project is the development of ecological farming on the property. It’s still in its formative stage, with the soil currently being replenished by cover crops – but once general farming begins, the team’s vision is for the land to provide for the property’s restaurants, and for the 58 community. Following this, produce will also be made available to local farm stalls and selected distributors.
Overall, according to Bheki, the 58 team’s intention is to create a place that “nurtures relations with the physical and metaphysical environment”. There are many elements to this aim, he says, including the need to facilitate guests’ immersion in nature, art, as well as physical, mental and spiritual wellness practices from various cultures. “There is growing interest in finding ways to improve our lives that are in communion with the universe,” he says. “To escape the obsession with money, and the politics of power.To be better people, within ourselves and among others. We support these principles, every day, in whatever form they naturally come to us.”