Count Natale Labia was born in 1877 in the little town of Cerignola, near Foggia in Italy. He joined the Italian Foreign Service 1906 and in 1916 he was transferred as Italian Consul to Johannesburg where he met Ida Robinson, daughter of the mining pioneer Sir J.B. Robinson whom he married in 1921. She was a keen musician, and they added extensively to the art collection started by her father. Early into their marriage, the Count was appointed Italy’s first minister plenipotentiary. They lived at Hawthornden in Wynberg (now Wynberg Boys High). Following “JB’s” death in 1929, Count & Countess Labia decided to build a home of their own at Muizenberg on ground which, in the distant past, had been the site of an old battery set up to protect False Bay from hostile and marauding ships (now the Natale Labia Museum). Casa Labia (or the Labia House) came to be a meeting place for statesmen, academics and businessmen from all over the country such as Nicolaas Christiaan Havenga, South Africa’s Minister of Finance from 1924 to 1939, and I.W. Schlesinger, the well-known entrepreneur and businessman. it later also became a cultural centre and venue for art exhibitions and musical concerts.
They also converted Labia House in Orange Street to the Labia Theatre in Cape Town in 1949.
Count Natale Labia died of a stress-related heart-attack in January 1936. In recognition of his long association with South Africa, the Government generously provided a state funeral.
Return to South African Theatre Personalities
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page