Words fail: I’m going to miss Chantel Dartnall

Lifestyle

Words fail: I’m going to miss Chantel Dartnall

But for those fortunate enough to have journeyed through her morsels, Pretoria’s Restaurant Mosaic will live on

Chris Thurman

Last week I was fortunate to make a third visit to the Orient Hotel in the Francolin Conservancy outside Pretoria. On the two previous occasions, I had donned my arts writer’s cap to write about the hotel’s expansive collection of paintings and sculpture. This was safe territory for a professional wordsmith well-practised at converting his responses to art into language. There was plenty to say; the works are beautiful and their setting exquisite. 

The biggest jewel in the Orient’s crown, however — indeed, its raison d’être — is Chantel Dartnall’s Restaurant Mosaic. Once you’ve dined there, you can’t help but feel you are one of the chosen, like the figure in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan after his vision: “Weave a circle round him thrice / And close your eyes with holy dread / For he on honey-dew hath fed/ And drunk the milk of Paradise.”

The problem is that Coleridge’s poem, famous though it is for its rich imagery and evocative cadences, actually testifies to the inadequacy of words. If only, the final lines seem to sigh, if only I could do justice to what I have experienced. Then the poem ends abruptly, declares itself a fragment and abandons its task...

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