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Saturday, August 1, 2020


(Marianne Meijer – Pic by Bren Brophy)

Well-known Durban artist and arts columnist Marianne Meijer passed away peacefully at home on July 30, 2020, at the age of 85. She had been suffering from ill health for some time.

Long-time friend and colleague, Carol Brown, former director of the Durban Art Gallery and now director of her Arts Consultancy: Curate.A.Space, writes the following tribute:


Marianne’s childhood years growing up in Holland during war time and Nazi rule were not easy as her father, a well-known writer, was persecuted for his liberal views and she had to be evacuated and separated from her family in her youth whilst the parents were in a concentration camp.

She met her husband Sjoerd when they were both teenagers at school in Holland. Before finishing her graduate studies in Nursing she and Sjoerd decided to marry. She loved telling the story about how they had to get permission from the Dutch Queen as students were not legally permitted to marry.  However, permission was granted and once she had graduated they emigrated to South Africa where they started off in Johannesburg and Kimberley before arriving in Durban in the late 60s with her husband and two children, Gwynne and Eric.

On arrival in Durban, Marianne started giving swimming lessons and many people still remember her as their swimming teacher which was how she began her life in this new country in her beautiful home in Umhlanga overlooking the sea. It was in this home that she drew her final breath just after her 85th birthday.

In South Africa, her life took a turn when she started art lessons with Andrew Verster who soon told her that she didn’t need lessons but (in true Verster fashion) that she must just go on and paint. And that became her life.

Her involvement with art was deeper than just making art as she served on the NSA council from the early 1970s, which led to a term of office as President and several terms of Vice President. She carried on with this strong involvement until she died. She was also given the Position of Honorary Life Vice President. She was on several other Advisory Boards such as the African Art Centre where she also made a great contribution.

Marianne had a strong and determined character and always stood up for what she believed in and fought the good fight whether it was access to art for all during the apartheid period, fairness and high standards.

Journalism was another of her talents.  She wrote on art for three papers - Northglen News, the Natal Mercury and Daily News. She had a regular art column in the Natal Mercury called Art Notes. This column was extremely important to the art and artists of KZN to whom she gave a voice and a showcase. 

Her last solo exhibition was a tribute given to her by the Durban Art Gallery in recognition of her 80th birthday. It was called Rembrandt – A Love Affair and consisted of her acrylic versions of the Rembrandt works with which she had grown up in the museums of Amsterdam. It was a joyous occasion where Durban people came out in droves to celebrate her birthday.

Her life’s passion was making art. She had a beautiful studio at home and she always had something on the easel. One of her early solo shows was an exhibition of Apple Paintings which she painted in huge canvasses making us look again at the “secret life” of apples and their meaning. She did not restrict herself to any particular genre and never stopped developing her art and experimenting. In the last few months, she started making abstract paintings which were intended for an exhibition on her 85th birthday this May which was postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions

Marianne (who was widowed in 1994) never lost her passion for life and art and never grew old although she lived a long life. She loved the texture and colour of oil painting and she mostly worked in series. Much of her art was about her daily life – portraits of people, the sea which she saw from her window, flowers. She developed her own style which was immediately recognisable. Her luscious tactility of oil paint became a manifestation of her own generosity. Generosity was one of her most remarkable assets. She was always there for artists, friends, students, family.  She had a rare quality of exuding warmth and love. But she was also a strong headed opponent of injustice in any form. She was never afraid to speak out when she saw a wrong.  Many battles were fought for the arts with a passion and conviction which came from her heart.

She was diagnosed some years ago with rheumatoid arthritis which caused her times of great pain but it did not crush her spirit. She still attended every art-related event where she was always the Star of the Show who everyone flocked around, wanting to share her wisdom and her joie de vivre. Nothing defeated her and she was unstoppable. She carried on attending her long-standing weekly art group sessions with Pascale Chandler where she found great friendships and inspirations.

Marianne loved socialising and having fun. She had a great sense of humour and was the epitome of strength, bravery and warmth. 

She was undoubtedly a Woman of All Seasons who was brave, creative, loving.  Durban will never be the same again.

Carol Brown

Durban, August 1, 2020.