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Art Gallery opens in honour of Noria Mabasa

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19 Nov 2007

In the year 2000 the National Department of Arts and Culture invested funds towards the construction of an arts and crafts studio at Ms Noria Mabasa’s homestead in Venda.

Ms Mabasa is a world renowned potter and wood sculptor, as well as a recipient of the 2002 Silver category of the Order of the Baobab. She has also received several other national and international accolades and awards for her outstanding artistry and creativity.

Born in 1938 in Xigulu, near Venda, Noria spent a period in the early 50s living in Soweto before returning to Venda. She now lives in Vuwani on the banks of the Levubu River in Limpopo province. With no formal training, Noria‘s work is shaped by her own natural talent. She uses clay, gathered from the river near her home, and wood washed down by floods, as her materials. Through an art school that she established, Noria transfers her skills in clay pot-making and sculpture to her students. She started working in clay in the early 1970s, depicting traditional culture and incorporating themes from the local Domba initiation practice for girls in her clay sculptures.

Motivated by a series of dreams in which her ancestors spoke to her, she turned to wood as her medium. In the process she broke cultural and gender stereotypes and became the first Venda woman to work with wood, that material having been the preserve of male sculptors up till then. She had a dream of an old woman instructing her on how to work with wood.’

Noria exhibited locally and abroad and her works- which range in scope from little African pots to clay figures, to Ngoma Lungundu sacred drums, to massive tableaux carved entirely from wood and which completely dominate their surroundings – are found in many private, public and corporate collections.

Noria’s clays figures are mostly portrayals of real people such as clergymen, policemen, soldiers or bureaucrats, while the wood pieces often represent her personal dreams or Venda folklore or a combination of both. With the shift to using wood Noria began to use more contemporary themes in her work. Rich in humour and dignity, many of her works depict women in various poses, sometimes in relation to men or performing different daily duties or looking after children.

The Department of Arts and Culture’s investment was necessitated by a combination of the need Ms Mabasa had for a working space, as well as the imperative of ensuring that she is provided with a vehicle for her to pass on her knowledge and skill. As such the dream for Vhutsila a vhu Tibiwi, Arts and Crafts Studio was born. Vhutsila a vhu tibiwi is a Tshi-Venda expression to teach that a custodian of knowledge should not take the knowledge with them to the grave without taking opportunity to pass it on for the benefit of posterity.

Noria is one of South Africa’s valuable living treasures, custodian of indigenous knowledge and a great teacher who willingly shares her knowledge and skills. The construction of the studio has been completed and it is indeed an impressive infrastructure which will provide for a gallery space, and other spaces for training, production, meetings and storage. The Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Ms Ntombazana Botha will officially open the Vhutsila a vhu Tibiwi, Arts and Crafts Studio studio on 26 November 2007 at Noria’s homestead, Vuwani, Venda at 10:00.

Enquiries                                 : Mack Lewele 082 450 5076/012 441 3083