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Alex Smith

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Three Cats

Three Cats labelI once was adopted by a cat called Ramon. He was a unique feline: he spoke Spanish and he was a maths professor. I don’t mind if you don’t believe me. Last week, over dumplings, author Karina Szczurek and I discussed the matter of cats on Facebook. She said that as much as she adored her cats, she had banned herself from blogging about them. And so I decided that in order to live up to my aspirations of being quite contrary, I must with some haste write a blog about cats. That very evening I did a reading at one of Cape Town’s most beautiful book shops, Clarke’s, on Long Street. And among the second-hand children’s books I found ‘The Curious Cat’ by Nicola Bayley. curious cat The cat, painted by Nichola Bayley, sleeping on the brown quilt above this sentence looks exactly like Ramon did (he lived with me until he moved on to other more interesting humans). So, I snapped up ‘The Curious Cat’ for baby Elias along with ‘Anatole and the Cat’ (which has proved a hit). Anyway, The Curious Cat is fascinating – for example in it I discovered that ‘Three Cats’ was the most popular brand of Shweshwe fabric, and that originally it was designed and manufactured in England and exported from there to South Africa.
As a former textile merchant, it amazed me when I discovered that a fabric and print style so connected with Africa, the look of Africa (in terms of style and beauty), actually came from overseas. Thankfully now it seems that local mill Da Gama, is making Three Cats (however I know that one of the most popular wax print brands in Africa is still made in Holland). There’s a wonderful trawl through the fabric shops of downtown Joburg here…along with a mention of Three Cats.

bongiwe walaza shweshwe dresses stylesShweshwe-dagama1
More from The Curious Cat later…


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