French-Zulu project a thing of Beauty

2010-01-22 00:00

SHE’S an artist and a legendary community worker and for Pietermaritzburg’s Beauty Sekete, 2010 has started with the bang.

Currently hard at work on three new works for Jabulisa — a project of the Natal Arts Trust, which aims to support and assist the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg, the Margate­ Art Museum, the Empangeni Museum, the Carnegie Art Gallery in Newcastle and the Durban Art Gallery to acquire works for their collections — she has also found the time to start a new community project in uQweqwe in northern KwaZulu- Natal­.

Amis Siyakhula is a nongovernmental organisation, the principal aim of which is the upliftment of the uQweqwe community.

It came about when Sekete met Glenn Flanagan, the woman behind a cultural tourism research development project that is based on the French presence in Pietermaritzburg and KwaZulu-Natal. Since the project started 15 years ago, the uQweqwe community that lives near the monument­ to the Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon, who was killed in Zululand­ on June 1, 1879, in an ambush, has benefited from the project.

Its secondary school has new classrooms in the Prince Imperial block, rain tanks, toilets, improvements to infrastructure, increased library resources and a craft club, which provides opportunities for employment creation and the effective utilisation of skills.

Flanagan, who teaches French at the Durban University of Technol- ogy­’s Pietermaritzburg campus, wanted to do more to help, but until meeting with Sekete at the Tatham Art Gallery last year, she was struggling to see how she could accomplish this.

“I met Beauty at the Fotag Fabulous Picture Show last year. She had made some beautiful small applique pieces and after seeing her work I told her about    the    French    presence    in KwaZulu-Natal and our work with the people in the uQweqwe area. I asked her if she was interested in getting involved and she immediately said yes.”

Flanagan and Sekete, who already does a similar project in Elandskop, then got Diane Gaskin, general manager at the NGO, the Business Support Centre in Boom Street, Pietermaritzburg, on board and through their combined efforts, Amis Siyakhula was born.

Sekete will be teaching women from the local community sewing and craftwork, with the initial sessions planned for January 28 and 29.

“I’m really excited,” Sekete said, “they [the community] all seem to be willing to learn.”

In addition, the community will be taught business skills to help them market and sell the goods that they make.

Flanagan said that she is thrilled with the progress: “For the first time we have someone who is prepared to go to uQweqwe, instead of us taking them to Project Gateway. To have an artist like Beauty who is willing to spend time in the rural community is a real boon.”

All three women believe that their work with the community will be a success.

“We believe [that] this community has something,” Gaskin said, “they have gold. They have a little French corner and they can benefit financially from it. But we need to make people aware of it and build around it. The NGO will give them the skills and training that will enable them to achieve this. They can become small and medium enterprises, and generate income for themselves and their families.”

As part of her dedication to the project, Sekete has produced a quilted French flag featuring icons from the European country and the Prince Imperial. It is the first of what she and her colleagues hope will be a collection of French-themed objects.

The flag, which took Sekete two weeks to make, working day and night, is one of the new works that she is submitting for the 2010 Jabulisa exhibition.


• Jabulisa 2010 will open at the Tatham Art Gallery on June 8, and will then move to Durban, Margate, Empangeni, Eshowe’s Vukani Museum and Newcastle.

Submission dates for Jabulisa 2010 are January 30 from 10 am to 2 pm and January 31 from 10 am to 2 pm. The selection date is February 3, and from 3 pm to 4 pm the same day artists will be able to get feedback on their work. The collection dates for unselected works is February 3, after feedback and February 4, from 10 am to 4 pm. •  For details about Jabulisa 2010, contact Brendan Bell or Kobie Venter at the Tatham Art Gallery at 033 392 2801. Entry forms are available at regional art museums or at




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