Back to Our Roots: Art in The Midlands

The Midlands MagazineOctober 13, 2022

The Platform Gallery is not shy. As you step into the unique gallery’s space, you will notice an abundance of artists and media and meet a friendly and knowledgeable curator to help you see it all. While the exterior of this must-see attraction maintains its humble roots (formerly used as a railway shed), it boasts the raw and undiluted talent that KwaZulu-Natal has to offer. Drawing solely on artists that live within two hours of the gallery, it’s marvellous that they have procured one of the most captivating and attractive collections.

While the plentitude of pieces on offer is clear, like the shed, the gallery also had humble beginnings. In the early days of the business, sculptor Michael Mawdsley worked on location before the now-sparkling gallery had electricity or running water. His studio setup allowed visitors to the space to see an artist in action. This once-daily feature harkened back to the history of The Midlands as an enclave for artists and crafters with open-door policies. This showcasing of artistry cracked open a door, revealing a world of possibility, a world seeking a bridge between the artist and the public. The Platform, and the team behind it, fill this role with an energy and enthusiasm that is hard to match.

A dynamic environment is essential when it comes to catapulting ideas into existence. The husband and wife team running the establishment, Glen and Molly du Preez, have managed to cultivate just that. The pair are involved with every ongoing project, seeing through their goals and visions with their hand-picked and driven team. As Molly said in a recent interview, “We encourage everyone on the team to feel like they can contribute ideas and problem solve throughout each day, and ultimately, we try to promote a passion for what we do.”

The gallery has had the privilege of growing organically by building close relationships with its artists and clients alike. Ask the curators behind the space, and they’ll tell you which artist stopped by in that week and which has sold a piece. ‘The Platform is a place to feel free and be inspired. It was always our dream to work with artists.” Glen shares with optimism. It is a curator’s privilege to bring the public’s attention to well-established and emerging artists.

While works from seasoned sculptors like Llewellyn Davies and Sarah Richards regularly find new homes, the team behind the gallery is just as likely to talk excitedly about the latest piece to come in from one of their new artists. One such artist is Rory Cox, who recently sold his first bronze sculpture. It is easy to see that the gallery’s mission is to provide a place for artists to grow and flourish, and the friendly curators are passionate about sharing it with you.

As well as providing a space for sculptors, painters, and sketch artists, they also have bespoke, hand-crafted jewellery that stretches across the spectrum, from fine gold and gemstones to bronze. One of the jeweller residents, Chantal Mayer, shares her ability to draw from natural elements and textures in her pieces. With work crafted from silver and pewter, she has an extensive collection of bold and delicate pieces.

While on any given day you are likely to see the two on-site, you are just as likely to meet Justin Houston, their friendly and outgoing team manager, who has been with the pair since the earliest days of the gallery. “There is magic here. A non-pretentious space where we can have real conversations about art. It’s really cool that a stranger can walk through the door, and I can help bridge the gap between them and the artist,” Justin shared fondly.

Whether you are visiting during the week or on the weekend, there is always a tangible atmosphere of warmth. During the winter months, this is significantly aided by one of Mr du Preez’s  businesses, Smokeless Fires. These are the first wood-burning but smoke-free fires for sale anywhere in South Africa.

The Platform extends further to The Local Cafe and Eatery, which now celebrates local musicians with live music every Sunday. This weekly live music, known as the ‘Smokeless Sunday Sessions’, is sponsored by Smokeless Fires and hosted by The Local.



At the far end of the property is the unmissable and earliest business at this Lions River location, The Nguni Guy. The Nguni Guy is home to a wide range of hand-selected Nguni hides, game hides, leather bags, and other accessories. The collection of small businesses run by the young and zestful team makes for an unforgettable experience, one you can’t miss.


Words by: Zenia Witthuhn-Van Niekerk