Original creative crafts

2011-09-15 00:00

TATHAM Art Gallery’s stunning ­exhibition, Meeting the Makers — Contemporary Crafts of KwaZulu-Natal, will close at 5 pm on Sunday, so if you haven’t had the chance to view it, make sure you get to the ­gallery in Chief Albert Luthuli (Commercial) Street, Pietermaritzburg, pronto.

To gather the material for the exhibition, the Tatham staff embarked on a series of field trips, which saw them travel the length and breadth of the province.

“We wanted to meet the crafters, and to see the places where they work,” Brendan Bell, director of the gallery, said. “We interviewed them about their work, and took photos of the craft and where it was made. And, slowly we started to get an ­understanding of the lives of the ­people and how they market and sell their work.”

What they uncovered has helped to document not only the crafters and the work they do, but the challenges facing many crafters in the province.

Speaking about the field trips, Tatham education officer, Thulani Makhaye, said: “We found that ­sometimes crafters would work in their bedrooms, and even in such a confined space, would produce excellent work. There’s also the fact that they face the challenge of transporting the goods to market, often at great cost and without any guarantee of sales.

“Many of the craft programmes are run by government, but they are not targeting the right people, and not really helping people to market their goods. One person is teaching seven other people to do exactly the same thing, and they end up mass producing craft and flooding the market. It ends up being a matter of sheer luck.”

Admin officer, Vimla Moodley, agreed, adding that she had been ­surprised that most tourists could not identify what craft was African and what was specifically South African.

“Most of them end up buying mass-produced items from Malawi, Zimbabwe, etc. Our artists are not really ­getting the chance to sell their own stuff,” she said.

“I was also humbled by how these people, in spite of their poverty and the background that many of them come from, are able to welcome you with genuine smiles on their faces.”

As for why the project was important, education officer, Pinky ­Madlabane-Nkabinde, said: “Fine artists are given a platform, but crafters are not given the same status. In fact, most people do not even know the names of the person who made a piece of craft. In contrast, they know which artist painted a work or made a sculpture.

“We got to meet the makers and that has changed the way I look at arts and crafts. I have been revived, and I also no longer want to barter for a work but to pay a fair price for quality craft.”

The exhibition includes traditional Zulu ­ceramics made by Buzephi, Khonzeni and Ntombifuthi Magwaza; ­contemporary lighting designs by Umcebo Trust and Egg Designs; beautiful basketry; embroidery produced by crafters from the Ingwavuma ­region; woodturned bowls by Andrew Early from the Dargle; furniture from Koop ­Design; paper flowers from the award-winning Shaw Sisters; beautiful beadwork from members of the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust’s Woza Moya project; stunning jewellery by Eunice Cele; wire work; and much more.

Accompanying the exhibition is a book, Meeting the Makers: Contemporary Craft of KwaZulu-Natal, which can be bought at the Tatham ­Gallery Shop between 10 am and 4 pm, Monday to Friday.

For more information, phone Mary Kleinenberg at 033 392 2828 or ­e-mail ­tatham.shop@msunduzi. gov.za

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