Don’t let the potholes fool you. This road leads to a masterpiece


The road to the Eco-Shrine is littered with potholes. They appear out of nowhere. But an innocuous turn down a path lined with trees holds the promise of a masterpiece. At first, the shrine appears to be a twisting figure of brick and cement. Up close, its intricate allure is revealed. A mix of mosaic, painting and sculpture, the artwork pays homage to the earth, incorporating a range of influences from the philosophical to the scientific. The shrine does more than forge a connection between ecology and aesthetics. It’s a deeply thought out and intelligent response to our environmental crisis.

Conceived by artist Diana Graham, the Eco-Shrine lies in Hogsback, in full view of the three mountains the small Eastern Cape town supposedly gets its name from. Graham has lived in the area for 33 years, and created her installation in 1995. She uses it to open discussions with visitors about how contemporary society has fuelled a disconnection from nature and caused climate change. “We are of the natural world, and we live as if we don’t know that,” Graham says. While it prompts thought, it also offers peace on the edge of an indigenous forest. “Here, you can take your time without the downside of the current global culture, the noise, the rush,” she says. “It’s not wound up.”

Hogsback is a mystical, natural sanctuary in the heart of the Amatola Mountains, surrounded only by small towns such as Alice and Balfour. Graham believes we have a duty to live in harmony with our planet if we are to preserve it. “We and nature are one,” she says.