Scene vi: Peacock Crown


The paint on the walls of the Safe House was a burnt orange littered with smudges of dirt and crayon. It was peeling in some places, and carried over to the molding or windowsills in others. From the time we began the Safe House project, we knew painting the interior would be an element of the project. We roughly measured the rooms to get an idea of the area to be painted and asked the women to collaborate and pick colors for each area based on the swatches and catalogs we provided. After much deliberation over the course of a weekend, a conclusion had been reached amongst the women.

Mama Pilisani and Mama Gloria look at final paint color options

Mama Pilisani and Mama Gloria look at final paint color options

Cast of Characters

Palesh: Olympia Paint sales representative who is friends with Gershwin Kholer. He was very knowledgeable, patient, and helpful.

WPI Safe House Team


We were escorted by Palesh through the reception of Olympia paint into their main conference room.  The extravagant, professional space felt misplaced in comparison to the rundown surrounding neighborhood. Palesh spoke confidently and patiently, leaving us enthused with the amount of cooperation and guidance he provided.


The initial thought required to answer most of Palesh’s questions could have been easily overlooked: calculating the total area that needed to be painted, a tall task for a building as intricate as the Safe House. We took notes on the rough sizes and shapes of the rooms along with relative ceiling heights. We investigated the amount of supplies the Safe House already had for painting and discovered that we would need to start from scratch. Giving the catalogs from the paint store to the women made them completely in control of the color scheme, and allowed the team to execute only the logistics. As the women and house mothers stay there, we felt it was best to leave them samples to actively discuss as a group without our intervention. The women then gave us their final decision on desired colors selected directly from the Olympia palette. We were finally ready to order the paint.

Actions and Observations

We discussed the dimensions of the various rooms and halls of the safe house with Palesh and attempted to accurately portray the size of each intricate area that needed paint. After the dimensions were finalized, we debated the type of paint required to cover the porous cement walls. We decided on a sealing primer and an easy-to-clean colored paint to combat messes made by the children. Using manufacturer recommendations, we were able to calculate the amount of primer and paint needed for each room. We also discovered an alternate solution to the necessity of a tiled area above the stove in the kitchen. We could instead use a turpentine based paint that mimics the surface of a tile, simplifying the installation process. Sam tried her best not to laugh as she read off colors such as ‘peacock crown’ and ‘sensation’ to Palesh to give quantities for each color chosen for each room. Palesh also helped us decide the quantities of painting supplies like rollers, brushes, and drop cloths. After deliberation, we concluded the meeting in agreement that the primer and supplies for painting would be delivered the next day with the paint following soon after.


The excellent service we received at Olympia paints allowed us to begin the painting process sooner than expected. In a traditional setting, a customer has to schedule a meeting with Olympia, choose paints, and finalize payment, all before finally receiving supplies. Due to Gershwin’s connection with Palesh, we were able to expedite the process and received experienced support. The value of relationships and networking like this became drastically apparent and can be a crucial factor in efficiency in Cape Town.

Act II >>