Vergelegen blue crane sculpture unveiling

Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West is home to four pairs of breeding blue cranes, South African’s national bird. Their majestic presence on the 322-year-old estate is now celebrated by a life-size work by renowned sculptor Keith Calder.

The bronze, situated near the popular Stables Restaurant, was unveiled on Friday 19 August in a ceremony attended by Calder, members of the estate’s Gardening Committee, and Daniel Dolpire, author and photographer of the book The Sentinels – cranes of South Africa.

“The blue crane is one of the most endangered bird species in the world and given Vergelegen’s commitment to heritage it is fitting we celebrate them,” said Wayne Coetzer, MD of Vergelegen.

Coetzer initially contacted Calder in August 2020 when he was in search of an appropriate horticultural centrepiece and focal point for a pond in the central axis of the East Garden.

“I was trying to come up with concepts for Vergelegen and spent some time at the estate,” said Calder. “One day, as I was leaving, I saw a pair of blue cranes in a field. That was it, and in retrospect it was the appropriate thing to do.

“Blue cranes are magnificent birds and with four breeding pairs in the fields beyond where the sculpture is going, it made total sense. I had to work hard to get my work to stand up to their beauty and I now fully appreciate why they are our national bird.”

Dolpire said he was previously “more of a lions and elephants photographer”,  but after five years of trekking across the country photographing all three species of South African cranes, “I was smitten.”

“They’re quite hard to photograph. You stop your car and they just move away. I had to buy a bigger lens.”

Calder initially worked in nature conservation for ten years, but always had an interest in art, and sculpture in particular. He was able to devote all his time to sculpture after winning a commission for St. Stithians College in Johannesburg. He won the tender with his concept of a herd of nine elephant interacting at a waterhole.

Calder’s  work ranges from miniatures to monumental sculptures and is well represented in galleries and corporations throughout South Africa. “To be able to draw upon the power and beauty of wild things and portray them in sculpture is a great privilege for me. Perhaps they symbolize our purer selves or jolt our deep-seated ancestral memory of when we once lived closer to the earth.”

Vergelegen is open to the public daily from 08h30 to 16h00.