The MuseuMAfrika is hosting a wonderful visual art exhibition until 25 May 2014. I was at the opening a few weeks back. Impressions of Rorke’s Drift is curated by Thembinkosi Goniwe who drew works from the Jumuna Family collection.
The Jamuna family started the collection back in the 1960s when art works by black artists was not fashionable and they continued to collect this even after it became popular, simply to ensure that these works were properly preserved in their country of origin.
It is a very important exhibition because it looks at the phenomenal legacy of the iconic Rorke’s Drift Arts and Craft Centre, the only formal arts training centre in Apartheid South Africa for black artists (unless they were one of the very rare students granted permission to study at a white university). Many alumni of The Rorke’s Drift Art and Craft Centre went on to have significant careers, including artists such as Sam Nhlengethwa, Pat Mautloa, John Muafangejo, Kay Hassan, Dumisani Mabaso, Bongiwe Dhlomo, Azaria Mbatha, Paul Sibisi, Lionel Davis and Sandile Zulu.
Rorke’s Drift is the site of the 1879 battle of the Anglo Zulu War which immediately followed the Battle of Isandlwana, the most humiliating defeat ever administered to the British Army. On this occasion the British military successfully held the little mission station. However interesting it may be as a battle site, Rorke’s Drift is infinitely more important because of its role in training Black South African artists.
The Rorke’s Drift Arts and Crafts School initially concentrated on weaving and pottery, but these facilities developed into a printmaking studio which attracted artists from all over the country and beyond. The process of print-making enabled art to reach a wider audience – works could travel to multiple destinations and was affordable for the artists and the buyers.
Impressions of Rorke’s Drift – The Jumuna Collection is on show at Museum Africa, Old Market Building, 121 Bree Street, Newtown; from 10 March until 25 May 2014. Museum Africa is open Tuesday to Sunday from 09:00 to 17:00, and closed on Mondays. For more information see http://www.kizo.co.za. For more information on the Centre see http://www.centre-rorkesdrift.com. This exhibition will be travelling to Cape Town after its visit to Johannesburg. The very good news, however, for the outlying cities and towns, is that Impressions of Rorke’s Drift is also going to be one of the exhibitions at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from 3 – 13 July 2014.