Looking for something different, colourful and fun to do this heritage season? Consider a guided tour of the astonishing heritage art, museum pieces, artefacts, curiosities and collectables to be found at Ammazulu African Palace in Kloof, not far from Kloof Gorge and Krantzkloof Nature Reserve in the 1000 Hills catchment area.
This quite indescribable, one-of-its-kind eclectic Palace has been the life-long passion project of owner, artist and collector, Peter Amm. He has sought out, found, saved, negotiated and collected the most phenomenal private collection of work to be found under one roof, probably anywhere in the world. Certainly nothing comes close to it in KZN.
It is quite extraordinary. Seldom does one walk into such a majestic and intricate building which quite literally takes your breath away – it personifies sensory overload.
Super efficient, knowledgeable and engaging manager, Alta du Plooy offers daily weekday tours at 10.30am and weekends at 11am, which last roughly an hour. Your R100 entrance ticket buys you a detailed and entertaining description of all of the quirky pieces in an art-exhibition walkabout format – and includes a cup of tea / coffee and light refreshments, and the ticket money goes to charity. Tours are subject to availability and demand, and should be pre-booked.
After working at Ammazulu for 11 years, there are still features undiscovered. “I can’t believe that I have worked here all this time, and am still finding new things to look at,” she tells me.
I was lucky enough to have my own personal walkabout when I visited, and I spent a full afternoon finding out more about the incredible palace and its contents featuring work by local, African and international artists from diverse traditions: from ceramicist Jane du Rand’s now iconic enormous mosaic pillars: 20 of them, all unique, which stand like rainbow sentry guards as the central feature of the bespoke, double storey building. There are 60 decorated pillars in total throughout the building in different styles and media.
The entrance itself is imposing – art deco-inspired enormous glass doors (saved from an Old Mutual bank) framed by high deco glass windows with sandblasted leaf detail and coloured glass features. This in turn is flanked on both sides by opaque glass bricks salvaged from an old movie house – at a time when one could still smoke indoors. (Look out for the little ash-trays!).
There is a “peeping museum” as you enter – enormous shop-front windows behind which is a series of displays of precious heritage collectables.
One doesn’t want to rush. Take your time, look up above you, at the floor beneath and around at every angle, and pause often. There is far too much to mention all the magnificence here – but a few things caught my eye. A full collection of “Stations of the Cross” , with their old wooden frames with Zulu Biblical verse, from St Mary’s Mission in Durban. The ancient embroidered contents were retained by the Mission, and replaced by bespoke glass art by the late Jean Powell. Her images have been blasted onto glass panels, with gold leaf detail.
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Central to the building is a delicate wrought iron spiral staircase, retrieved from the old Greenacres department store in town, and stands between two elevated Carl Roberts wooden sculptures. Two life size vintage rickshaws unexpectedly are parked in the far right hand corner inside the building, two of a series which Amm rescued from the municipality, with out-sized sculpted wooden rickshaw pullers.
There are a series of giant wooden sculptures by musician Michel Schneuwly; and work by Gert Swart: a large wooden baobab tree with three hippos weighing almost five tons and a large Palace crown hanging above the function hall
There is a collection of brightly painted ear plugs; wooden head-rests and beaded waist coats on display in the upstairs lounge; there are dainty intricate Ardmore ceramics – I could see two; huge displays of dried flowers and grasses – all with peacock feathers (referencing Amm’s childhood fascination with peacocks); an oriental-inspired glass topped table with faux golden antelope-antler legs; enormous suspended chandeliers displaying Amms’s personal boyhood toys interspersed with teacups, kitchen sieves, mugs and antique ceramic electricity insulators. There are huge graffiti walls by Joburg graf artist, Gogga, paying homage to, and in visual conversation with, the du Rand pillars. Look out for a brightly coloured, placemat-size fabric art work featuring cloth hats, a bathmat, handbags and a good luck medallion, sourced from Thailand.
The building is designed principally by Kevin MacGarry of Architects Collaborative, with the owner – the same team who created their sister establishment, the Ammazulu Garden and Sculpture Precinct, a 20 acre primeval forest which was originally his family’s homestead, and is open for walks and light meals a few minutes away in Kloof.
Ammazulu African Palace offers ten distinctive suites, all decorated differently, and all with verandas overlooking various panoramas of the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve. In order to navigate Covid protocols and lockdown restrictions, the Palace have made their rates affordable for domestic guests and is open for accommodation only, and breakfast by appointment.
The Palace is open for adult guests only – no children under 14. The bar is not open, and alcohol is not being served, but guests may bring their own. No formal activities are being arranged, instead the Palace provides a quiet, calm, gentle refuge. Management can make suggestions for meals, excursions and activities close by. They have an onsite sauna, and a mobile spa which offers treatments in the comfort of guests’ rooms.
Ammazulu Palace is the most extraordinary place to visit – take a tour for an hour or two to admire the mad beauty; or stay for a night or two to let the utter Fabulousness restore your body and soul.
Oh, and like the sculpture park, they also have a dinosaur in their garden!
Good To Know
- Ammazulu African Palace / 20 Windsor Road, Kloof
- For information: email@example.com / 031 764 8000
- It is a 5 star establishment
- Ten suites / Bed only / Breakfast on request
- Adults only (no children under 14 permitted)
- Suites overlook the Krantkloof Nature Reserve – every suite has a balcony with a view
- Flat screen TVs in every room
- Free WIFI
- Outdoor pool, sauna / steamroom
- Mobile Spa
- King Shaka Airport is 53km away
- Ammazulu provides a shuttle service
- Durban town is a 20 minute drive away
- Kloof Central is 2.8km away.
- For more info: https://www.ammazulupalace.com/
- Ammazulu Gardens and Sculpture Precinct / 88 Kloof Falls Rd, Kloof.
- For information: 083 244 7565 / https://www.ammazulupalace.com/gardens-and-sculpture.php#mapSection