22 November 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

iSimangaliso Artists exhibit during COP17

‘Ugqozi Lwentambende…spirit of the long rope from iSimangaliso’, a body of work from nine sculptors from the iSimangaliso area, is on exhibition at the Dube Trade Port (Durban’s uShaka Airport) as part of its activities leading up to the COP17.

The sculptures were created by selected artists who, along with 41 other artists living around the park, have been receiving training in visual art at the iSimangaliso Art Programme, funded by the MTN SA Foundation, moving them from the fringes of the art circuit a little closer to the centre.

Participating artists Samuel Mtshali and Nelisiwe Msweli explain the title of the exhibition: “We chose the isiZulu idiom Ugqozi lwentambende because it reflects the process of learning and succeeding through perseverance.”

The artworks arrived in Durban after a successful three month exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG). The exhibition represents the creative journey that began three years ago in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first world heritage site. As part of the programme a number of eminent South African artists ran seminars, workshops and mentoring sessions with men and women from areas around the park. Participating artists included Dumisani Mabaso, Andries Botha, Sam Nhlengethwa, Usha Seejarim, Hannelie Coetzee, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Nontobeko Ntombela, Les Cohn, Nandipha Mntambo, Lawrence Lemaoana, George Mahashe, Cedric Nunn, Andre Croucamp and the Artists Proof Studio.

I love this programme, and the work the artists are producing. As Andrew Zaloumis, CEO of iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority said when the exhibition first opened; “It is significant that this work has its roots in iSimangaliso, where conservation has taken its place alongside art, as an agent for change and social transformation.”

The programme is currently entering a second phase, which will include 50 new artists living in and around iSimangaliso. I am really looking forward to seeing what new spaces these artists can open up, and if they can help us find new ways to meaningfully talk about the issues they explore in their work.

Another exciting part of the Dube TradePort exhibition is the three day long residency of five of iSimangaliso’s sculptors to create a collaborative artwork on commission to Dube TradePort. The artists have been mentored by Andries Botha and will explore the theme of climate change. The exhibition will be opened by Andries Botha and Andrew Verster, and is running from the 23rd of November to the 16th of December.

Some achievements of the iSimangaliso programme are:

  • A commission to produce sculptures for the Moses Mabhida Stadium that was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, entitled ‘Ancestors’, displayed in the presidential suite.
  • A commission for the Deputy Minister of Environment, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, producing 400 hand-printed cards on recycled paper.
  • Last year the artists took part in their first group exhibition, entitled ‘Park Views’, held at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban.
  • Currently, they are involved in an iSimangaliso Authority commission making carved screens that will be displayed permanently in the re-vamped game viewing hides throughout the Park.
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