Corporate Social Investment

Beads, grass, clay and wire at gallery

An exhibition by five female artists at the Industrial Development Corporation’s head office gallery shows its commitment to the arts, and its investment in community initiatives.

September 17, 2012

Gorgeous animals in fine detail by Beauty NdlovuGorgeous animals in fine detail by Beauty Ndlovu

The unlikely partnership of beads, grass, clay and wire mingle happily at the Industrial Development Corporation's gallery at the organisation's headquarters in Sandton.

Five artists, some of the country's most creative women, are represented in the latest exhibition in the gallery. Beauty Ndlovu, Lobolile Ximba, Thembi Nala, Angelina Masuku, and Nomvuselelo Mavundla have added colour and wonderful craftswomenship to the serious business of the IDC.

Sisters Sophie and Esther Mahlangu, the world-renowned Ndebele artists, have displayed work at the gallery.

Beauty Ndlovu

Ndlovu's beaded animals are a delight. She started beading her little animals in 1989, inspired by images she saw in books and magazines. She first displayed her work at the African Art Centre in Durban, and later, with help from the Siyazama Community Project at the Durban University of Technology, she got training in product development and new markets.

She has zebras, chickens, giraffe and antelope on display at the gallery.

"Beauty has become an example of a self-empowered woman," says curator Nomvula Mashoai-Cook, who is the executive director of the Mpumalanga Traditional Art Market (MTAM) in Nelspruit. The market is part of the IDC's corporate social investment programme. It began in 2009 with the aim of supporting artists to become self-sustaining. It also seeks partnerships to train and develop young artists.

Ndlovu has passed on her skills to others in her community. "The Siyazama women continue to be inspired by designing a new range, adding to their portfolio each year as they express their concerns about HIV/Aids in their communities," adds Mashoai-Cook.

The project aims to spread awareness of HIV/Aids through creative workshops, local and international exhibitions, museum collections, publications and on-going research activities.

Lobolile Ximba

Ximba, together with her daughter Sibongile, learned to make traditional beaded Zulu fertility dolls from Ximba's mother Hluphekile Zuma, who is an expert doll maker. These dolls have played a role in Msinga courtship, engagement and fertility rituals for many years.

A girl presents a boy with a doll as an expression of her interest in him, and if he accepts the doll from her, he indicates by this action that he returns her affection.

Ximba married at the age of 19, moved near to the small settlement Muden in KwaZulu-Natal and began making dolls to sell on the roadside. She was encouraged to find a bigger market for her gorgeous dolls, and travelled to Durban, where she showcased her work at the BAT Centre. She and her daughter have since become involved in the Siyazama Project, and she has helped educate people about Aids.

Thembi Nala

Nala is a member of the renowned Nala family of traditional Zulu potters. Her mother, Nesta, learnt the craft from her mother, Siphiwe, who learnt from her mother, Ntobi Khumalo, in a tradition that goes back 75 years, in the town of Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal. Nala creates her gleaming clay beer pots by the coiling method, then she burnishes them with river pebbles and decorates them with incised and raised patterns, a style made distinctive by her late mother.

Nala's sisters, Jabu and Zanele, each have their own style, and all three sign their pots. They have passed their craft on to their daughters, thus continuing the Nala legacy. Nesta received several prizes for her pots, and the Nala family pots are prized works in public and private collections locally and internationally.

Angelina Masuku

Basket maker Masuku has taken part in several exhibitions, such as the 2004 FNB Craft Now, the 2005 Basket exhibition and the FNB Vita Crafts exhibition in Durban, where she won first prize.

She uses ilala palm and grasses from KwaZulu-Natal, her home province, to make her baskets, and makes the colours with natural dyes extracted from grapes, berries, leaves and roots. The patterns in her sometimes large baskets contain images of huts, people, and intricate geometric shapes.

"She has ensured that this rich tradition, inherited from her family, is kept alive and has also passed on the tradition to her daughter," says Mashoai-Cook.

Nomvuselelo Mavundla

Thirty-four-year-old Mavundla is from KwaMashu in Durban, where she learnt to weave wire as a teenager, using the proceeds to pay for her schooling. After completing school she took up weaving full time and specialises now in making telephone wire bowls, plates and armbands.

"I grew up in a family making handwork, using plastic bags to make plastic mats," she says. Her neighbour taught her to weave wire. Together with her husband Simon, they produce colourful geometric designs, interspersed with images of animals, people and houses.

She has developed elephant and dog characters inspired from carpet designs. Otherwise, her ideas come from the daily lives of people and her surroundings.

She has exhibited her work in Portugal, Japan, Germany and the US, her trips being sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry. She exhibits across South Africa, and her work is exported through a company in Cape Town.

Mashoai-Cook is promoting the artists of the MTAM in an event at the Riverside Mall in Nelspruit on 28 – 30th September, as part of Heritage Month.

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