African Art Centre

The African Art Centre was established in Durban in 1959 to preserve and mentor the development of arts, craft and design, showcasing local creative talent to stimulate sustainable social and economic upliftment. “African arts and crafts are an enormous part of our cultural heritage and must be preserved and nurtured for future generations,” says African Art Centre Manager Janine Caramanus.

Through training, product development, exhibitions, marketing and sales, the non-profit company provides opportunities for creative up-skilling, business development, self-employment and exposure for 300 artists and craftspeople from rural KwaZulu-Natal, 80% of them women. “The money the craftspeople earn from their products is paramount to providing them with an income to sustain their families and enable them to live,” says Janine.

The wood sculptors and painters from Manguzi have been working together for many years, all taught by Timothy Mlambo. Because they live in a forested area, their subject matter  depicts their surroundings, with characters often taking on cartoonish appearances. Sculptor Widuz Mtshali says he is inspired by the wild animals he encounters while collecting wood. He and Timothy were instrumental in teaching Sibusiso Gumede their craft. Says Sibusiso, “To make it in this field you need to be creative and you have to work hard. It may seem easy when you see a beautifully made craft, but it isn't an easy job. But nothing tops having love for what you are doing.”

Greytown-based telephone wire (telewire) weaver Constance Ngubane learned her skill as an adult. “For some people from our community, weaving is their culture, but for me, I learnt in 2008, when Hlengiwe Dube, a master weaver, visited and taught me wire skills. I have now mastered many patterns.”

Constance has trained many new craftspeople under the African Art Centre’s development programmes, and they, in turn, have gone on to train neighbours, family and friends. 

This totem was proudly made by:

Manguzi artists (painted wood sculptures) KwaMashu artisan (telewire weaving) Greytown artisans (telewire weaving) 
Bongani Khumalo Ben Biyela Constance Ngubane 
Sibusiso Gumede   Dumileni Mkhize 
Themba Khumalo     
Timothy Mlambo     
Widuz Mtshali

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