Childhood threads in fine art pieces

2016-08-30 11:26
Zyma Amien, at work in her studio in Woodstock.

Zyma Amien, at work in her studio in Woodstock. (Gary van Dyk)

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Surrounded by the creativity of seamstresses in her home in Surrey Estate, the young Zyma Amien never realised that the seeds of her journey in art were being planted.

Now living in Pinelands with a studio in Woodstock, she has just been announced as one of the finalists in the 27th Sasol New Signatures Art Competition with 100 artworks being shortlisted from around South Africa.


She confesses that it was not her first choice in life. “I matriculated at Cathkin High in Heideveld and went on to study medical technology,” she says.

“That is what I did for 15 years but I was always busy with my hands involved with crafting and dressmaking, helping my mother. My grandmother was also a seamstress of note working at Artscape (then Nico Malan) in making costumes for their productions, so I grew up in a very creative environment.”


Eventually the call to the art was too strong and she enrolled to do her fine arts degree at Unisa.

“It was tough,” she remembers. “It took me six years to finish it working part-time, but then I went on to do my masters at UCT in two years. Now I am one of the lecturers at Unisa.”
For her submission to the Sasol competition her inspiration was her mother. “The theme for my submission was the life of my mother as a seamstress,” she says.

“Her life is an inspiration because of her struggles, having to work for the family with her dresses making a difference in so many lives but her own as she remained a worker throughout her life. This was my way of honouring her and I am glad that it ended up with me being one of the finalists.”

Sasol New Signatures national chairperson Pieter Binsbergen adds that there was a definite rise in the quality of artwork submitted in 2016, which is extremely encouraging. “In 2016, nationwide feedback sessions were introduced. These sessions allowed artists submitting entries to have their work critiqued, which is a valuable addition for emerging artists.

“The feedback sessions have been extremely well received by all the artists. Sasol New Signatures is not just an art competition but has become an educational journey for these emerging artists. This facilitated learning platform included discussions around pricing and how to approach galleries to sell works. It will see the standard of works submitted continue to get better and better.”

Themes noted in this year’s entries portrayed environmental issues as well as gender disparity. “We have seen a move away from the more traditional mediums used in the artists works to experimental uses such as ceramics being reinvented in sculptural forms,” says Binsbergen.

“It is very exciting to see how these boundaries are being pushed and whatever the medium used, most of the entrants had something in common: they combined their materials with innovative ideas to transform the ordinary into something extraordinary.”

The winner of the Sasol New Signatures competition will be announced at a ceremony on Wednesday 7 September after which the winning works will be displayed for a month at the Pretoria Art Museum.

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