and Folk Art
doubt about it -
Africans are a
crafty bunch. South African
crafts -- a remarkable range of them -- are produced by people
working from the pavements and
markets of the big cities to deep rural enclaves, with every possible
form of traditional artwork - and then some.
a lot of new
work in traditional media, with artisans constantly developing the
African crafts repertoire. These range from pretty tableware, Christmas
tree decorations and magnificent embroidered cloths to the simplest of
items such as keyrings and candle-holders.
inventiveness, South African crafts have been expressed in
every possible medium to a
market that feeds both locals and tourists.
addition to the
standard materials such as beads, grass, leather, fabric and clay,
pieces are made using telephone wire, plastic bags, petrol cans and
bottle tops - even food tin labels are used to create brightly coloured
papier mache bowls.
sale on many a South
African street corner are objects made of wire, ranging from
representations of the globe to cars and motorcycles - which are
capable of manipulated movement - to joke cellphones and working
collectives dealing in African craft, and South African crafts in
particular, are thriving, providing
much-needed employment and income in communities such as Fugitive's
Drift in KwaZulu-Natal, which offers a huge variety of basketry, or the
Northern Cape Schmidtsdrift community of displaced San people who
produce paintings that constitute an imaginative and highly coloured
extension of ancient rock art.
our website we have sourced some wonderful pieces
which you can purchase and add to your collection. We've also complied
information about contemporary South African crafts and folk art.
art and crafts, high art and crafts
South African folk art is also making inroads into Western-style "high
art". The work of ceramicist Bonnie Ntshalintshali, with its almost
phantasmagoric detail, has gone well beyond the confines of traditional
African pottery - yet her works could still be used at your table.
is another artist who has taken a traditional form and given it a
personal twist. In his case, the carving of figures using the inherent
curves and forks of tree branches, common in the Venda region, is used
to creating a cast of eccentric characters.
artists in the folk art mode have come up with ideas quite out of left
field - like the Ndebele tradition of house-painting, part of the
widespread African practice of painting or decorating the exteriors of
homes, burgeoned amazingly with the advent of commercial paints.
also gave rise to
artists such as Esther Mahlangu, who has put her adaptations of the
distinctive, highly coloured geometric Ndebele designs on everything
from cars to aeroplanes.
way of an
enlightening contrast, as well as a pure visual feast, there are many
Ndebele villages to be visited in Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces -
and the distinctive Ndebele style has been extended beautifully to
traditional to commercial
A high level of skill is brought to the production of work that has
long been a part of African society, and has now found new commercial
once the insignia of tribal royalty alone, has today found a huge range
of applications, from the creation of coverings for everything from
bottles to matchboxes - and the reproduction of the red Aids ribbon in
the form of small Zulu beadworks known as Zulu love letters.
of course, were long ago brought to a pitch of perfection in
traditional South African society, and the outgrowths of these forms
today grace gallery plinths as often as they find a place on suburban
important collections of African art in South Africa, such as the
Standard Bank collection at the Gertrude Posel Gallery at Wits
University in Johannesburg, or the Durban Art Gallery, housing works of
historical and anthropological significance.
can be few other
places in the world where you can see this variety of African arts and
crafts, whether they be masks made in one of the continent's many
styles, or carved chairs, or embroidered or appliqué cloths.