Friends of the Garden presents: Dr Gert Van Tonder

Those of us with green thumbs will want to get out into the winter cold to hear Friends of the Garden’s next speaker: Dr. Gert van Tonder. He will talk about the visual signature of Japanese Gardens on Thursday 26 July at 1800 in the Old Conserve in the botanical garden in Stellenbosch.

“What – if anything – constitutes an authentic Japanese garden, and what is its essence? In the extensive literature on Japanese gardens one is sure to find many answers. Here, I would like to share some personal insights into the character of a classical style Japanese garden by looking more closely at spatial composition, shape and texture, informed by study, observation and practical engagement in Japanese gardens over the past two decades.”

Gert van Tonder is a South African neuroscientist and moss garden designer, resident in Kyoto for the past 23 years. He holds a master’s degree in Electric Engineering and a doctorate in Neuroscience. Between 1996 and 1999 he trained as a classical Japanese-style gardener at the Ueoto Japanese Landscaping Company in Kyoto, working in various gardens at Myoshinji and Daitokuji.

He has worked as associate professor in the neuroscience of human visual perception at Kyoto Institute of Technology between 2003 to 2014, and as visiting professor at Stanford, Princeton and other universities between 2011-2015. In 2014, he was named a Whitney B. Oates Fellow by the Princeton Humanities Council in recognition of his graduate course, Perception and Aesthetics in Japanese Gardens, on the intersections between perception, cognition and art.

His research has been featured in major scientific and media outlets, including Nature, New York Times, BBC, CNN, NHK World, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Scientific American, and more. He is concurrently an external researcher in vision research at Kyoto University, while working as a moss gardener.

*For more information, phone Willem Pretorius at 083 260 5696.