‘Penis Gallery’ probably isn’t the first term that jumps to mind when people think about things to do around Grahamstown. But, much to the suprise, excitement or bewilderment of many, a gallery dedicated to the phallus (the penis) can be found 25 minutes outside of town. Sarah Beningfield and Heather Cameron explored this off the beaten track gallery- or Phallery as it has been lovingly named- which is the only one of its kind found in Africa.
After a bumpy ride along the winding dirt road that leads to Bon Tempo Farm, we spot our first penis. Granted, it was a bush in the shape of a penis, but it is scandalous nontheless. The property containing the Phall♂s Art Gallery is riddled with phallos shaped objects. There are penis sculptures, mosaics and even fountains spread out across the farm. The male member even stands to attention on the roof.
And that’s just the outside. We are greeted at the car by Volkher von Lengeling, who is the owner Bon Tempo Farm and Phall♂s Gallery – Africa’s only gallery dedicated to Phallic Art.
Von Lengeling, Phall♂s Gallery curator, meets us as we park and leads us to the exhibition space. Inside, phallus themed paintings, sculptures, photographs, ceramics, and even soaps dominate the art space. Under a wire sculpture manipulated to spell “Phallery” (which is what von Lengeling has called the exhibition), he explains his initial foray into this art form.
“I was inspired by a book on ancient Scandinavian phallic art which featured the Tängelgårda, a carving of Vikings fighting on a penis,” he says. “That was five years ago, then four years ago we started the gallery.”
Phall♂s has the aim of celebrating male sexuality while simultaneously promoting women’s empowerment. “I think the idea is pleasure and enjoyment,” says von Lengeling. “It’s not about the violence and abuse [of women]. In no way do I find it derogatory towards women.” The exhibition, which is free to view as long as you call ahead, features several female artists and ceramics inspired by the Venus of Willendorf, as well as artwork by local and international artists. His partner, Claudia, is one of the artists and created the 12 different phallic bongs on display.
Von Lengeling points out some of his favourite pieces as we wander around. “The phallic symbol is so universal that you can draw inspiration from anything really. Anything that’s longer than it is wide is basically phallic,” he explains.
His larger than life fibreglass sculpture, titled Peacock, which depicts a plumed penis, features prominently in Phall♂s’s bar area, which is open to guests who might need to quench their thirst after perusing the gallery.
“The phallus has been hidden away. Its neo-African males who have clung to conservative Victorian and colonial ideas on sexuality and presenting sexuality,” says von Lengeling. “It’s not un-African because the phallus is African. The San and Khoi [images of phalli] are proof of that.”
Von Lengeling envisions Phall♂s growing in the future. “Bigger is better! Ultimately, it would be great to have something that is a year-round attraction for Grahamstown.”
If phalli aren’t your thing, Bon Tempo Farm also features scrap metal sculptures of Nazghuls from The Lord of the Rings, plus a tame zebra who goes by the name of Johnny and enthusiastically trots over to be petted when von Lengeling calls his name.
Bon Tempo farm is located just past Stones Hill, along the R67. It is open year round. Contact von Lengeling at 083 281 0257 to organise a viewing.