A story of hope set in the Drakensberg
Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio is the inspiring legacy of an African story of hope.
Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio sprang from a collaboration between a Zimbabwean artist and a young South African girl affected by polio.
Tucked away in Champagne Valley in the Drakensberg Mountains, the Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio has grown from humble beginnings into a major success story. Started by a Zimbabwean artist and a young woman afflicted with polio, the studio now employs more than 50 people.
The scenery of the Drakensberg Mountains captivated Fee Halsted-Berning. This Zimbabwean-born ceramicist and painter decided that her move to Ardmore Farm in the Champagne Valley of the Drakensberg was the perfect time to pursue her creative interests seriously. She was soon looking for a partner and asked an employee of the farm, Janet Ntshalintshali, to recommend anyone willing to learn the fundamentals of ceramic art.
Janet’s daughter, Bonakele, had contracted polio as a child and found work as a tomato picker physically arduous. Janet was anxious to find work that was less strenuous for her frail daughter and this was the opportunity she was looking for. And so, in 1985, Bonnie started working with Fee.
An exceptional partnership developed. Together they began Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio. The strength of the studio lies in the differences of the founders. Fee contributed her extensive knowledge of ceramic sculptural forms and Bonnie added exuberant, rhythmic reinterpretations of biblical narratives and traditional African rituals.
The fact that Fee had studied painting meant that as a ceramic sculptor she went beyond the spectrum of colours usually associated with the art form. Ardmore Ceramics soon became known for its exuberant colouring, unlike anything seen before.
In 1990, Fee and Bonnie jointly received the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art. Bonnie went on to win many other South African art awards and have her work represented in many local and international art collections before her untimely death in 1999.
Bonnie’s legacy lives on though: today, Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio employs 50 locals, mainly women from the Drakensberg Mountains region, a region with little in the way of formal employment. The Bonnie Ntshalintshali Ceramic Museum is located on the premises of the studio and celebrates her work.
Take the N3 from Durban. Follow the R600 to Winterton, then follow the sign to the Central Drakensberg. Near The Nest Hotel is a signposted gravel road that leads to Ardmore. See the gallery's website for a detailed map.
Self-drive is the best option.
Any time of year, though spring in the area is particularly beautiful.
Entrance to the studio and museum are free.
Plenty of sunscreen, a hat and comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots.
The area offers a wide range of accommodation, from old country hotels and backpacker hostels to luxurious modern resorts and boutique hotels.
There are a number of new creative ventures along the road from Winterton to Champagne Valley. Of particular interest is KwaZulu Weavers where visitors can watch locals hand-weaving gorgeous rugs.
Visit the Ardmore Ceramics website for an online gallery and sales portal.
Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio
Tel: +27 (0)33 234-4869
The Drakensberg Mountains were proclaimed a World Heritage Site in November 2000.
Visit the Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio in the Drakensberg Mountains
The Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio, in the Drakensberg Mountains creates some of the most celebrated South African ceramic art.