Bhengu gallery at mission a success

2013-09-21 00:00

THE re-opening of the revamped Gerard Bhengu gallery and museum at Centocow Mission near Creighton was hailed as a success.

“Not only is it a gallery and a museum, but it’s in a rural area and it uses a church building,” said KwaZulu-Natal acting premier Senzo Mchunu.

The Centocow Mission was founded in 1888 by Abbot Francis Pfanner. A Polish princess gave a donation to buy the land, so Pfanner named the station after the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland. Czestochowa became simplified into Centocow.

The gallery is housed in the original mission church that was restored especially to house the Bhengu collection. The church had fallen into a considerable state of disrepair and the tower was near collapse. But instead of demolishing it, the upper section was supported with steel pillars, while the lower section was dismantled prior to being reassembled after the foundations were rebuilt.

Bhengu was born at Centocow in 1910 and began drawing at an early age. Today his work is much sought after and many of his later works were commissioned by Killie Campbell.

The opening of the museum was an important milestone in the transformation of the heritage landscape of the province, according to KZN Arts and Culture MEC Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha.

But the museum is not the end of the story, said Dudley Smith, economic development manager at the Ingwe Municipality. “The end product is a tourist destination and a tourism route built around mission tourism.”

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