Declaration of Owl House and Camel Yard
National Heritage Site declaration: 29 September 2017
The Owl House and Camel Yard represent South Africa’s foremost example of outsider art. The Owl House and Camel yard were created by Helen Martins and her assistants, most notably, Koos Malgas; and became well-known after the internationally recognised Athol Fugard play, ‘The Road to Mecca’ in 1984, a play that is still performed worldwide. It was after this play that visitors started looking for the Owl House. Helen Martins is internationally recognised as one of the top ten female and top 13 outsider artists in the world and the Owl House has become a significant tourist destination for the Eastern Cape and South Africa. The Owl House, Camel Yard and context of Nieu-Bethesda form a coherent unity and cannot be considered separately. On the property is the concrete manifestation of the strange and unique world that outsider artist Helen Martins and her assistants (most prominent among them, Koos Malgas) created. The site also acknowledges the role that Koos Malgas played in the making of the sculptures and the collaboration which he shared with Ms. Martins and stands a testament to artistic practice during a time where this sort of collaboration between members of different race groups which was not encouraged.