Legend of Oscar comes to life in new book

From left, Patrick Latimer, the illustrator of Oscar!, storyteller Mpho Moselakae and Marc Hoberman.

The legend of Oscar the Cape fur seal, his unlikely friendship with a lonely fisherman and how his golden statue came to be built at The Table Bay Hotel has been told in a book, Oscar!, for children by photographer and publisher, Marc Hoberman.

Welcoming guests on their arrival at the hotel, Oscar’s statue is a testament to the Cape fur seal which was a part of harbour life at the V&A Waterfront.

In fact, his story is intertwined with the history of The Table Bay. Oscar was named after the kind-hearted fisherman with whom the seal shared an unlikely friendship.

The two would meet every day on the pier near where The Table Bay stands today.

After the fisherman’s passing, Oscar continued to visit the builders and members of the hotel’s opening team during the construction.

He is fondly remembered as the “Original Protector and Guardian of The Table Bay”. His pups still visit the jetty to bask in the sun.

Mr Hoberman, who captured the culture, history and people of the hotel in a luxury coffee table book in 2016, learned the story of Oscar during the time he spent photographing the hotel.

Inspired one evening, Hoberman took pen to paper to scribe the tale. He completed the story before pitching the idea to The Table Bay’s general manager, Joanne Selby.

“As one does, I thought of the idea in the dead of night, to record the darling story for children to read.

“Young guests are often unaware of the history behind the statue at The Table Bay. Before pitching the idea to the team at the hotel, I sat down and wrote it in one long evening. It was indeed challenging but I was just so excited about it,” said Mr Hoberman.

“The book is based on a real story; about how the Oscar statue on the property grounds came to be.

“It’s a wonderful story so I had good material to work with. Nevertheless, it was a challenging story to write because I wanted it to be in a rhyming format so that the book had a fun flow but it was important to me that the rhyming wasn’t too predictable.”

He said the team immediately embraced the idea of a storybook to tell the story of Oscar.

Mr Hoberman has produced a few bestsellers including London; Namibia; South Africa’s Winelands; Stella’s Sephardic Table and a coffee table book for the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel in Knightsbridge, London.

To help illustrate the story, Mr Hoberman commissioned Cape Town illustrator and cartoonist, Patrick Latimer, whose work can be found in local and international magazines, on book covers and wine labels and seen in advertising campaigns.

According to Mr Hoberman, Mr Latimer immediately grasped what was needed to bring to life the story of Oscar on the pages of the book.

“Although I hadn’t worked with him before, I fell in love with his work while researching local illustrators.

“In fact, I even have one of his prints in my home. We clicked straight away and shared the vision for the book,” said Mr Hoberman.

Sarah Prins, the PR manager at The Table Bay, said Ms Selby and the rest of the team love the book. “The legend of Oscar, though profoundly linked with our history, is often left untold to young guests. Finally, his story has been recorded for children. We are delighted with the result of the book which indeed is a special treat to look at and hear. For us, it is also a lovely way to reach our small guests.”

The story was read to children at The Table Bay Hotel recently. Oscar! is currently being handed out to guests as gifts but can also be purchased from the hotel via guest services.

Storyteller Mpho Moselakae brought the story to life at a reading of the book at The Table Bay on April 21. The author and illustrator were also there to greet guests and sign copies of the book.