Michael Edwards revisits the Jazz Age Mantis No. 5 Boutique Art Hotel in shimmering Summerstrand
At Mantis No. 5 Boutique Art Hotel waiting for our breakfast, waffles and bacon drizzled with maple syrup, we seem to be shifting continents, moving away from Africa. Heading back in time to the glamorous anything-goes freedom of America’s 1920s Jazz Age. All wrapped up in an elegant Art Deco blue and white package of aerodynamic curves, symmetry and rectilinear geometry. This is Miami Beach taking a vacation on South Africa’s Sunshine Coast.
Even lounge armchairs at Mantis No. 5 Boutique Art Hotel, in Port Elizabeth’s shimmering seaside suburb of Summerstrand, have the lines of the Empire State Building.
Syncopated, improvised jazz from piano, sax, bass and drums, is the soundtrack to breakfast in the Jazz Room. Appropriately, waistcoated waiters, looking as if they could play a mean bass line dance by.
Morning light illuminates artwork, paying tribute to those first pioneering jazz stars. We could be in New York’s Harlem in the 1920s. If it were not for a Warhol hanging on the opposite wall.
Not only has Adrian Gardiner, conservationist and entrepreneur, restored this Art Deco house sitting just over a hundred yards from the Indian Ocean shoreline, he has also created an art gallery. No 5 Brighton Drive exhibits over 200 pieces of art from Gardiner’s personal collection, including drawings, paintings and sculpture.
At first sight, William Kentridge’s imposing portrait of a rhino seems like a link to Mantis Founders Lodge, a luxurious base for Eastern Cape safaris that is around a 70-minute drive away. That would be appropriate as many guests use Port Elizabeth as a staging post for a transfer to a safari lodge that specialises in rhino conservation. Before you ask, Mantis is an acronym for Man and Nature Together Is Sustainable.
But take a seat in the lounge, to read the catalogue telling the stories behind the artworks. Especially that rhino. When Bertrand Russell was lecturing at Cambridge, Wittgenstein, who was not enrolled at the university, attended Russell’s lectures and posed many theoretical teasers. Ultimately, Russell asked Wittgenstein to confirm that there was not a rhinoceros in the room. Wittgenstein would not. Probably because the rhino was a metaphor for a complex mathematical problem.
Other artworks displayed on the walls of Mantis No. 5 Boutique Art Hotel include Herk Serfontein’s evocative road scenes of gas stations and motels, creating nostalgia for a lost age. And yet more pieces celebrating the Jazz Age.
Artwork in the seven suites, this really is a boutique art hotel more than living up to its name, also highlights the beautiful but treacherous nature of a shipwreck coast. In fact, you can take a tour overlooking some of the dozens of wrecks recorded along the coast.
In the suites, mirrors and polished rectangular woodblock flooring continue the Art Deco theme. A wide balcony, accessed by two double glass doors, has a typically Art Deco chrome rail that creates the sense of standing on the deck of an ocean liner.
Everywhere from the French Champagne Lounge to the spa the Mantis No. 5 Boutique Art Hotel decor whispers sumptuous luxury. After dinner in the Jazz Room, guests can head to the Havana-aromas cigar lounge or to the Private Cinema. It is modelled, with permission granted, on the Mountbatten Theatre at Clarence House in London. One of Prince Charles’ residences before his ascension to the throne.
Converting safari’s Big Five into a Big Seven, lures visitors to Port Elizabeth to head out to sea to spot a whale and a Great White Shark to complete the set.
Though breezy Port Elizabeth has plenty more to offer as it looks to reinvent itself from its industrial past. Located at the heart of Nelson Mandela Bar, a walking tour of Route 67 calls in on artwork that celebrates Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of political activity.
The Mandela walk is just one of the tours provided by Mosaic Tourism who also guide visitors around the centre of Port Elizabeth, clambering up through Fort Frederick, or along the coast to see those shipwrecks.
A tour of Walmer, guided by a township resident, gives an insight into the mindsets of those who live on the fringes of the city in a ramshackle shanty town. Although there are those who seek to escape township, others find family snd community amongst the corrugated iron roofs and leaning wooden walls.
Increasingly, guests are staying a little longer at Mantis No. 5 Boutique Art Hotel. As a small all-suites hotel, it is a luxurious base for exploring the varied attractions of Port Elizabeth.
Tell Me More About Mantis No 5 Boutique Art Hotel, Port Elizabeth
Mantis No 5 Boutique Art Hotel 5, Brighton Drive, Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth, 6001, South Africa
T: +27 (41) 502-6001 E: email@example.com
Suites at Mantis No. 5 Boutique Art Hotel, including breakfast, begin from £160 per night.
Visit http://www.mosaictourism.co.za for available tours in and around Port Elizabeth