African Art Centre

An organisation of excellence which changes the lives of artists and crafters by empowering them through skills training.

Grade

Tame

Disabled Friendly

Yes

Accommodation

No

Team Building Facilities

No

Family Friendly

Yes

  • Category
  • Location
  • Grade
  • Disabled Friendly
    Yes
  • Accommodation
    No
  • Team Building Facilities
    No
  • Family Friendly
    Yes

The Durban African Art Centre Association provides thousands of unemployed artists and craftspeople with opportunities of self-employment and economic upliftment and the ability to earn a sustainable living. We reach out to some of the poorest communities in KwaZulu Natal; the youth, rural women, the disabled, the unemployed and persons affected by HIV and AIDS. We have built a reputation for supplying specialized, high-quality products handcrafted products. Every purchase made from the African Art Centre provides a sustainable income for more than 1 000 crafters supported by the Centre. Our Core Purpose: To acknowledge, respect, appreciate, promote and preserve the creative efforts of black artists and crafters. To better the quality of their lives and to ensure that they are able to earn a sustainable living from their artistic creativity and craftsmanship. During the past 50 years, the African Art Centre has provided thousands of artists and craftspeople with opportunities for self-employment and the realization of their talents. Originally a project of the South African Institute of Race Relations, the Durban African Art Centre has, since 1984, operated as an autonomous, non-profit organization. For the first three decades of its existence, it was guided by the late Jo Thorpe, who virtually single-handed, put Durban on the map as an important center of black artistic development. Today operating from premises in Florida Road, Durban the African Art Centre has adapted to the changed political, economic and artistic landscape and expanded its operations. It is proud to be recognized as the longest surviving South African organization involved in the development and promotion of black artists and craft-workers. The number of artists and crafters supported by the African Art Centre has increased exponentially over the fifty years as have the returns they have realized through their talents. Development and training programs have grown in number and scope and reached ever-widening groups of individuals and communities, both in the geographical and sociological sense. Many African Art Centre artists have achieved international acclaim – Azaria Mbatha, Tito Zungu, and Reuben Ndwandwe – but thousands have had their lives dramatically improved through the recognition of their talents. The African Art Centre has reached out to the poorest communities, rural women, the disabled, unemployed, youth, HIV/AIDS affected persons, frustrated artists craving recognition and development and made huge differences to their quality of life. Starting with providing an outlet and public exposure the Centre moved into nurturing and training individuals and groups whether in townships or remote rural areas. Occasional Saturday classes have developed into sixteen years of Velobala Art Classes (teaching in Fine Art, Jewellery design, and Print Making) provided free at the Department of Fine Art at the Durban University of Technology to disadvantaged persons. Since 2003, the Centre has funded and hosted the Artist of the year Award which gives the artist the financial security to concentrate on creating art. This exhibition is eagerly anticipated by discerning private collectors as well as museum and gallery curators and does much to preserve the heritage of KwaZulu Natal. Visit our shop and gallery where we showcase the best of traditional and contemporary South African art and craft by Master Craftspeople and Fine Artists. Products include Antique Zulu and Xhosa fine beadwork and artifacts, telephone wire products, Ilala Palm Baskets, handmade ceramics, paintings, works on paper, sculpture, and embroidery. The African Art Centre has a reputation, within South Africa and internationally for supplying specialized, high-quality products. Regular Development Projects presented by the African Art Centre not only focus on skills transfer and product development but also on the preservation of traditional craft skills. Over the past 50 years, the Centre has represented the interest of craftspeople and artists by supporting and promoting their work at the shop and also via retail markets and art galleries in the rest of the country and abroad. Every purchase made from the African Art Centre provides income and employment for more than 200 crafters represented by the Centre. The African Art Centre offers a personal wedding gift registry, specially handcrafted corporate gifts and designs as per request. We work with Interior Designers and Decorators by assisting artists and crafters in manufacturing specifically designed original, handmade products for your home. We carry a wide selection of art and craft books and a unique selection of children’s educational books. Opening hours: Monday to Friday 08:30 – 17:00 Saturday 09:00 – 15:00 Over the past 50 years, The African Art Centre has worked with some of the most economically disadvantaged people, who have limited access to capital, technology, and resources. We have reached out to the poorest communities, rural men and women, the disabled, the unemployed, youth, HIV/AIDS affected persons and fine artists yearning for recognition. People living in rural communities, especially women shoulder the burden of poverty and are often deprived of benefits from participating in long-term opportunities and profiting from economic growth. The African Art Centre provides creative art and craft skills development training for groups of female and male crafters from rural KwaZulu Natal. Our programmes aim to encourage and nurture works of creativity, originality and of the highest quality and to assist both young and established crafters to become self-supporting by means of pertinent training, mentorship and development and continued evaluation and communication. Our interventions make long-term and sustainable changes in the lives of our beneficiaries, augment crafter capacity, produce new cultural entrepreneurs and improve and strengthen already established cultural entrepreneurs in the region. Our development programmes increase the sales of craft products in mainstream retail markets (via our shop and gallery, trade fairs and exhibitions) and assist in building the identity of genuine craft from KwaZulu Natal. In addition, our development programmes and initiatives increase consumer awareness of distinct hand-crafted traditions. The overall objective of our development plan is to provide exceptional sustainable community development support to poor communities and to enable them to undertake sustainable community development action resulting in their improved standard of living. Many women living in KwaZulu Natal face a number of issues including a high poverty rate, low educational qualifications, and inadequate provision of basic needs services. Our development programmes impact on women advancement, provide markets for locally produced goods, provide employment opportunities and stimulate rural economy. Zulu Artifacts and Antiques From the time of its inception in 1959, the African Art Centre started its own unique but small collection of fine art and Zulu artifacts of national importance. Beadwork items have been sourced from previously unexplored areas including the Ngxamanga Group from the Eastern Cape and the Xhesimbe Group from the Mount Ayliff area in KwaZulu-Natal as well as pieces from the Fengu, Pedi, Pondo, and Xhosa in the Eastern Cape. From the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, works from the Pondomisa, Umkomaas and Port Shepstone areas are represented. Beadwork from the Midlands area includes the Swayimani of New Hanover, the Valley of 1000 Hills, Msinga, Vryheid, Escourt, Bergville, Njasuthi and Pongola. This collection is growing smaller because old Zulu artifacts are becoming increasingly difficult to find. The first time the African Art Centre exhibited artifacts was in October 1994. The exhibition was titled African Dream and was opened by Sydney Dube of the University of Zululand. The exhibition showcased a number of isicamelo – wooden Zulu headrests, hand coiled pots, and beadwork. The following exhibition of old artifacts was titled Vuka – Wake up and was held at our old premises at the Old Station building in the CBD in March 1996. In 2006, at the same premises, Amagugu VI was hosted and in 2009, the Centre hosted its first Amagugu exhibition in the new premises in Florida Road, Durban. In the book written by Jo Thorpe (the founder and first Director of the Centre), titled “It’s Never Too Early” a history of the Centre from its beginning until 1994 is provided. The collection of artifacts collected since 1959, THE JO THORPE COLLECTION was donated to THE CAMPBELL COLLECTIONS (of the University of KwaZulu) now housed at Dr. Killie Campbell’s residence “Muckleneuk” at 220 Marriott Road Durban. This is available for study and to view by appointment. Zulu Ceramic Pots Ceramic pots have been around for thousands of years and continue to play a crucial role in Zulu traditional customs. The ceramic pot is a common household vessel still used widely amongst Zulu people. Traditionally, three sizes were most common: the large Imbiza pot was used for brewing; the Ukhamba pot used for serving and the Umancishana pot size was used for cooking meat, storing water and grain and for drinking sour milk. Originally produced by Zulu women to serve beer at social gatherings and spiritual ceremonies these vessels highlight the mastery of burnishing and low-temperature firing. We promote exceptional vessels produced by Clive Sithole, Jaba, and Thembi Nala and Khulemeleni and Shongaziphi Magwaza. Beadwork: Beadwork has a reputation for being the most prevalent craft practiced in KwaZulu Natal. The African Art Centre prides itself in our range of unique and innovative beadwork. Our bead workshops have been the highlight of the African Art Centre’s achievements; empowering rural women with valuable skills and providing a sustainable source of income. Traditionally, beads are worn by persons from virtually all cultural backgrounds as trendy fashionable accessories. In the Zulu culture, beads have various symbolic functions embedded in the usage of color combinations, patterns, and design. Beading Workshops are presented by the African Art Centre throughout the year. The workshops aim at developing new skills and techniques, product development and we encourage the production of works of originality and of the highest quality. The designs are based on traditional Zulu beadwork, which has been transformed into contemporary fashionable jewelry. Traditional Zulu Baskets: Traditionally the Ilala Palm Baskets were produced to store homebrew made by the Zulu’s. The baskets were woven in such a way that when the weave gets wet it expands and becomes watertight. Besides serving as containers, decorative woven baskets were produced for special events, for example, marriages, as a sign of female fertility, a celebration of birth or harvest and as gifs for special occasions. The baskets are produced by using grass and Ilala palm. The colorful geometric patterns often in various colors are made by dying the Ilala palm with natural dyes. The ochre color is produced by using umqandande fruit, black is produced by using isiszimane roots and lilac is made using umphekambeduleaves. More recently the different shades of brown are produced by submerging tin cans into water and using the rust colored water to dye the Ilala palm fronds. Today there is a palette of over 20 natural colors available to weavers. The geometric designs and patterns used on the baskets are also symbolic, for example, the diamond shape refers to femininity, and the triangles signify masculinity and the zig-zag lines refer to the squadrons of war. Telephone Wire Baskets Telephone wire basketry is an indigenous South African art form which has grown from the basket weaving skills of the Zulu people of KwaZulu Natal. The craft is said to have originated in the 1950’s when night watchmen working in the cities would weave telephone wire around their wooden walking sticks whilst working at night. Originally the wire was sourced from leftovers lying around, however when telephone wire started being ripped off and stolen off telephone poles, a supplier came on board and started producing the plastic casing specifically for the telephone wire producers. Textiles: The majority of our weavers are from the Greytown and New Hanover areas in Central KwaZulu Natal. This group of almost 60 male and female basket weavers consistently create baskets in various shapes and sizes, including bowls, vases, and other functional items. In addition to functional items, wire weavers supported by The African Art Centre produce vibrant, colorful telephone wire earrings, brooches, bracelets, and bangles. Skills training and development alone cannot promote craft production unless it is supported by design strategies and product development. The African Art Centre collaborates with designers, trend forecasters, and the craft producers to establish new concepts, to upgrade basic skills and design elements. Design strategies and product development have played an important role in empowering the craft producers and have contributed to sustainability and income generation. In order to increase marketability and market access opportunities, the Centre has had to look ahead of the traditional definitions of craft to include niche markets of home decor, home-ware, and gifts. Embroidery: In view of the high levels of unemployment, the production of craft has become a significant source of income particularly within rural and low-income communities in KwaZulu Natal. For more than 50 years, The African Art Centre has committed itself to facilitating and implementing relevant, strategic programmes and projects aimed at addressing the concern of unemployment. One such project was an embroidery project initiated by the African Art Centre in 2004 for a group of 7 young unemployed single mothers living in KwaZulu Natal. The group named themselves the Ntokozo Group. The word Ntokozo loosely translated means “happy” and the embroidered panels of bold images and exuberant color speak of personal stories, the environment and the hopes and aspirations of the crafters. The group which has grown in number continues to produce a range of embroidered products, including embroidered panels, aprons, dishtowels, placemats, and stuffed animals. Fine Art: In view of the high levels of unemployment, the production of craft has become a significant source of income particularly within rural and low-income communities in KwaZulu Natal. For more than 50 years, The African Art Centre has committed itself to facilitating and implementing relevant, strategic programmes and projects aimed at addressing the concern of unemployment. One such project was an embroidery project initiated by the African Art Centre in 2004 for a group of 7 young unemployed single mothers living in KwaZulu Natal. The group named themselves the Ntokozo Group. The word Ntokozo loosely translated means “happy” and the embroidered panels of bold images and exuberant color speak of personal stories, the environment and the hopes and aspirations of the crafters. The group which has grown in number continues to produce a range of embroidered products, including embroidered panels, aprons, dishtowels, placemats, and stuffed animals. Funky Craft: Looking for something new and unique? The African Art Centre offers a diverse range of vibrant, colorful, contemporary craft. By means of our Development Projects, crafters supported by the African Art Centre are encouraged to expand on the range of products they produce. Each item created is innovative, high in quality and richly invested with individual skill and creativity. You will find some of the brightest, highly innovative handmade products at the African Art Centre. Popular products include beaded glasses, telephone wire Vuvuzela’s, Makarapa’s, beaded takkies, painted gumboots and much more.

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