Quality art at Basani

2010-04-27 00:00

VISITORS to the Basani Arts and Crafts Centre in Pietermaritzburg will notice a few changes — the most ­significant one being a gallery space currently showing football-themed works.

Most of the paintings on show have been created by the late Shokwake Mngadi. The prolific artist created dozens of paintings before his ­untimely death last year, including several intricate 3-D football stadia. ­­Betty Naude, one of the founders of the arts and crafts centre, said ­Mngadi made the works because he believed they would sell well ahead of and during the World Cup.

Sharing this gallery space with ­Mngadi’s works are figurines by Bheki Gumbi and drawings by Rodney Mqadi, a talented young artist from the France settlement who specialises in township scenes, portraits and 2010 soccer players.

In the adjacent spaces of the gallery there are shelves bursting with craft, ranging from the elegant ukhamba pots made by the Magwaza sisters to beadwork by Eunice and Zama Cele and ceramics by Jabulani Mhlabini.

All have found a home at Basani ­because Naude and her fellow founders — Victoria Makhaye and Sarah Carlisle — believed Zulu arts and crafts were being neglected in Pietermaritzburg.

To try to correct this imbalance, the three women opened Basani at 15 Hyslop Road in 2004, with the aim of preserving African and especially ­Zulu traditional craftsmanship and to support disadvantaged but talented and creative Zulu artists.

In those early days, the centre consisted of just one room, but as Basani grew, so did the need for space, and visitors to the property will now see art and craft throughout the building.

They will also encounter many working artists, including Bongani Gumede, Protas Mvuleni, Mthokozisi Myeza, Trompies Ndlovu, Siya Xaba and cartoonist Philemon Mpoyi from the Congo. New works by these artists can be viewed in the work-in-progress gallery at Basani, and they’re also happy to undertake commissions.

Looking ahead, Basani will be taking part in Pietermaritzburg Tourism’s Craft in the Park and in the Royal Agricultural Show. Plans are also ­under way to bring in artists-in-residence on an ongoing basis to provide support for artists and skills training for students.

Thursdays offer one of the best days to visit the centre — not only can visitors chat to artists about their work, but they can also enjoy tasty meals, prepared by Maria Mthalane. The menu at the Basani Café, which is also open on Wednesdays and Fridays, includes both traditional and European-style meals and snacks — and if you give her warning she will even serve utshwala (sorghum beer) in an ukhamba.

• The Basani African Arts and Crafts Centre is open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm. Inquiries: 033 342 3697 or 076 307 5400.

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