Crafts Rorke’s Drift artists showcased

Rorke’s Drift artists showcased

Carving, etching and printing the life history and legacy of a Zulu community on paper for three decades is a noble and heroic endeavour.

Curated by Thembinkosi Goniwe, Impressions of Rorke’s Drift – The Jumuna Collection contains 49 works by 20 printmakers who, from the 1960s to the ’80s, created an impressive legacy of linocuts, woodcuts and etchings at the Rorke’s Drift Art and Craft Centre.

“The importance of The Jumuna Collection lies in its historical nature,” says Goniwe. The Rorke’s Drift Art and Craft School was one of the only places in South Africa that black artists could study and practise art during apartheid. “It was during a difficult time in our history that men and women were given a creative platform, instilling in them confidence and a sense of community, and establishing a legacy for the growth of democracy and freedom within the nation today.”

Impressions of Rorke's Drift exhibition at Monument. Photo: Sara Steiniger.

Impressions of Rorke’s Drift exhibition showcases 49 works by Rorke’s Drift artists, including John Muafangejo (centre). Photo: Sara Steiniger.

The centre first started working with crafts and then developed a printmaking studio which attracted artists from all over the country. Over the course of several decades, the instructors at Rorke’s Drift Art and Craft Centre helped launch the careers of many artists, including Pat Mautloa, John Ndevasia Muafangejo, Kay Hassan and Sam Nhlengethwa.

Each of the artists featured depicts aspects of themes that reflect and document their everyday rituals, celebrations, hardships, religious indoctrinations and personal expressions. Some artists were deeply influenced by religion and reinterpreted the stories and the teaching of the time. Many of the works capture distinct styles, from naive to more advanced uses of technical draftsmanship. Other artists paid careful attention to details: the nuance of emotions can be seen as tiny, white teardrops that fall from the eyes in works that evoke pain. Emotions of jubilation can be seen in some of the coloured pieces.

Through linoleum blocks, woodcuts and metal plates, artists were able to create small print runs of 10, 20 or 50 images.

This is a rare opportunity for the public to see an exceptional historical collection of prints – in one place.

– Isabel M Castro, Cue

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