Estelle Sinkins talks to DEAN NORRIS from the LIVING ART CAMPAIGN about how they are helping African artists to get better recognition and more money for the work they make.
A DETERMINATION to see African artists properly paid and appreciated for their work underpins the work of the Hillcrest-based Living Art Campaign.
Part of the non-profit organisation, Enza, and run by Dean Norris, the project has been operating in the Shongweni Valley and Hammarsdale since 2015.
“Through the Living Art Campaign we are seeking to find and expose the incredible talent in this community,” said Norris. “We are currently working with various artists in an attempt to help them use their artistic abilities as a form of income. Our ultimate goal is to develop a sustainable programme to help break the cycle of poverty which has gripped the lives of the people in this township.”
Norris, himself an artist, said the idea was borne after he began to take an interest in local artists and soon felt that their work and appreciation as artists was drastically undervalued.
“I would come across curio artists who sell incredible art at extremely low prices. There is no name on the work and they don’t really give meaning to their work. They are making and selling to survive,” he added.
The Living Art Campaign aims to change that by helping the artists to grow their names and understand the importance of marketing their work.
Norris says it’s been incredible to see the artists getting proper attention for their work. “It’s really exciting… we are restoring value to African art,” he added.
The Living Art Campaign is working with sculptors, bead workers and painters but is happy to support any form of visual art. This was underlined when the Living Art Campaign hosted an auction of work by some of its artists which brought in more than R40 000.
Norris said that one bead worker was encouraged to create sheets of beautiful beads in different patterns, each of which would have a meaning. These were then framed and presented to buyers with an explanation of what the work meant.
In another case a man who made wooden working sticks, which he sold for R100 each, was encouraged to place several sticks in a box frame. The work was a hit with buyers and made the sculptor ‘more than he would normally make in a month’.
To promote the artists and the work of the Living Art Campaign, two artists – bead worker and sculptor, Jason Msipa, and painter, Paul Mazefani – will be taking part in Festival in the Hills, hosted by Curro Hillcrest Christian Academy, at Curro HCA in Hillcrest on Saturday, August 27 from 9 am to 4.30 pm.
“Both Paul and Jason live in impoverished communities but they are producing incredible work and helping other artists,” said Norris. “Our plan is to build them up and through them we will be able to build up other artists.”
Mazefani, who is originally from Zimbabwe, but now calls Hammarsdale home, paints in acrylics, applying the paint in thick, emotional strokes. He focuses on everyday life in an African township and his powerful work proved very popular with people who attended the Living Art Campaign auction.
Msipa, who also lives in Hammarsdale, makes sculptures from metal and also does beautiful beadwork.
“I believe the Festival in the Hills will be a huge opportunity for them to really show people what they can create,” said Norris.
For more information on the Living Art Campaign go to www.livingartcampaign.com
NEED TO KNOW
THE Festival in the Hills is a day-long feast of family fun entertainment, presented by the Rotary Club of Kloof and hosted by Curro Hillcrest Christian Academy at Curro HCA in Hillcrest on Saturday. August 27 from 9 am to 4.30 pm.
- Big, Bright Beautiful Word in the City Hill Auditorium at 2 pm. Conducted by award-winning conductor Bernard Kruger a massed children’s choir will perform alongside the world renowned Drakensberg Boys Choir. Tickets R130 (pensioners R100, scholars R80) at Computicket.
- Sweetie Darling by Clinton Marius starring Bongani Mbatha in the Media Hall at 9.45 am. This award-winning romantic comedy portrays a young man going all out to prove himself. As he finds himself and love, he finds his path to spiritual growth. Tickets are R60 at Computicket.
- Planet Storio written and performed by Gcina Mhlophe in the Media Hall at 11.45 am. KwaZulu-Natal’s own internationally acclaimed story teller and children’s author Dr Gcina Mhlophe is set to delight youngsters this year with one of her enchanting productions. Tickets are R60 at Computicket.
The day also offers a jam packed programme of performances, workshops and free activities. For more information visit http://www.festivalinthehills.co.za