Posts Tagged With: Mogalakwena Gallery

‘Double Vision’

On the evening of Thursday 5th November 2015, the doors of Mogalakwena Gallery, 3 Church St., Cape Town,  opened for the viewing of Double Vision, a fibre art exhibition featuring the work of Odette Tolksdorf and myself . The opening was part of the First Thursdays, Cape Town programme, and because we were blessed with warm, balmy weather, the crowds thronged the streets and we had a really interesting mix of people coming through.

Sally Scott, Gina Niederhumer and Odette Toksdorf at the opening of 'Double Vision'

Sally Scott, Gina Niederhumer and Odette Toksdorf at the opening of ‘Double Vision’

For those who weren’t there to enjoy it, I have included some of Odette’s works and a gallery of all the work that I have on show. We were fortunate to have Gina Niederhumer to open our exhibition and have included her opening words below:

“When Odette phoned me about a month ago, to ask me if I would open her and Sally’s exhibition I was at first shocked that she asked me, after all these artists were already famous and were part of that crowd that I looked up to and admired from afar while I still marveled over log-cabin patterns… I am immensely honored that they asked me to open their exhibition. Both artists have resumes as long as both my arms…prestigious awards to their names…their work is held in public and private collections – locally and internationally…and their art-works appear in many publications …most recently in Elbe’s new book Craft Art in South Africa.

Sally Scott and Odette Tolksdorf are amongst a group of a few local textile artists who have put South African Fiber Arts on the world map.

There are certain parallels to their biography…both have lived elsewhere for much of their formative years…Odette in Australia, Sally in Zimbabwe…both are internationally exhibited artists and both are teachers of creative workshops for over thirty years… both work with needle and thread amongst other things… and they are friends.

While each one developed their own style and working methodology…here in this exhibition they joined forces to give us a glimpse into their practice.

I will first speak about Odette, as her work is exhibited in the first room.

Odette, beside being a prolific textile artist, is also a Quilt Judge and these past 15 years has been the South African representative and co-coordinator of the World Quilt and Textile competition which is held annually in the USA.

She has also for the last 15 years, organized cultural art and craft tours to South Africa, together with American textile artist Nancy Crow and Canadian artist Valerie Hearder.

Odette’s fiber art is known for its vibrant colours, it’s geometric shapes…intricate textures… and has a linear quality about it. Her work starts often with a traditional pattern which she then distorts and adapts to fit her design concepts.

Her surroundings frequently provide the prompts for her work. …a trip to Morocco becomes Lost in Marrakech…which hint at the intricate networks of Medinas and Souks…which invite one to get lost in while absorbing the colours and shapes of the place…next to it is the work Endless Migrations which is based on rumination around friends leaving the country…and the coming and goings of people in general…all over the world… in one direction or another… like the flow of water…the circles representing the endlessness of this pursuit…given the present situation in Europe with thousands of refugees making their way through different countries in search for a safe place and a new start, this work could not be more current.

'Endless Migration' by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Endless Migration’ by Odette Tolksdorf

As a graphic graduate, Design is a strong element in Odette’s art. This is quite evident in many of her works…such as the piece Isihlalo – the Chair, which is based on the woodcarving of a back-rest belonging to a Zulu-King…. Raw Wall based on traditional Yoruba house decorations…Re-mix Africa…a lighthearted play on words referring to the watershed exhibition Africa -re mix…where Odette mixes Kimono shapes with African wax prints with a variety of textures, such as Cuba cloth, and Bark cloth…linking different symbolism and agendas.

'Re-mix Africa' by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Re-mix Africa’ by Odette Tolksdorf

Odette’s latest works, Breath I, II and III is unusual perhaps in its soft watercolor feel…but then on closer look it is again indicative of her way of responding and processing her surrounding…as by her own admission, she was seduced by the material when she found that wonderful organza and thought of a way to use it. An artist will always read any material or subject matter through his or her own lens of seeing the world…in this case, turning layers and layers of translucent textiles into a meditative study on light and breath…offering a though provoking reflection on the repetitiveness of the sewing process.

Breath, Breathe and Breathing Series by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Breath, Breathe and Breathing’ Series by Odette Tolksdorf

Double Vision …the title of this show….refers to an eye condition, Wikipedia informed me… (I could not resist) whereby the eyes when looking at a single object, see it twice, the effect is like squinting.

I like this title for the Sally and Odette’s exhibition, as it not only points in a humorous way to two artists having different views, but it also reminds us that there is always another way of looking at things. That there is the actual artwork the viewer sees when entering the gallery, and then there is the story behind each work…the story that triggered the work in the artist as well as the ‘threads’ that are spun in the viewers imagination while looking at the work. Nobel Peace Laureate Eric Kandel, speaks of the beholders share which completes the process between artist and viewer.

Which really tells us that something is happening to us while we are viewing an artwork…and the thoughts triggered have less to do with the actual work then with our own inter psychic realities …such is the power of art.

Thus in a way, art lets us look into both directions…the outer world and the world within us. I find this especially the case in Sally’s piece Surrender. While the trigger for the work might have come from Sally’s experiences, it has universal appeal, as we all can identify with the need to let go of things, thoughts, ideas that might be not only be counter productive but actually harmful. This is especially true, when we have been hurt, and have allowed the woundedness within to create an armor that we hope shields us, but it actually separates us from the world, and ultimately from living live fully

When I look at Surrender, I see the threshold that allowed the other works to surface. Art and healing go hand in hand. Nietzsche already said, that when the soul is in distress, art comes as an expert healer and sorceress, turning difficult thoughts and emotions into something that can be looked at, and talked about.

The titles often give further clues to the meaning behind the work…Axis Mundi….the tree of life….Towards Infinity…a continous search for the self…Synergy acknowledging the different elements that strive for wholeness…

The vivid colours in many of the pieces give the works a celebratory look…a triumphant transition of the souls search and healing process after the work Surrender. The repeated almond shape of the Vesica Pisces, which presents itself in much of Sally’s work, speaks of her continued search for unity and balance. Vesica Piscis, the place where two equal circles overlap and create a third shape – a liminal space – is at the root of sacred geometry… I understand Sally’s repeated use of this shape as a search for the essence of oneness

vesica pisces jpg

Sally runs workshops for community projects and university students, teaching embroidery skills, drawing, journal writing and her hugely popular Red Shoes workshops, which are aimed at empowering people through helping them find their own creative voice.

Sally is not only a teacher and lecturer and a leading figure in the textile world, she is also a landscape painter and wildlife activist.

Growing up in what sound like a magical time on a remote farm in Zimbabwe, her love for the bush is evident in her photographs and paintings. Here in this show, in the three framed works showing photographs of barren landscapes over which hang little Travel Bags combine her love for remote places, traveling and needlework. It is again the search for oneness that I see in it.

Click on the images below to see Sally’s works on show:

While both artists focus on their respective tasks and work with the same medium, needle and thread, their artistic output, copious as it is, is quite distinct from each other. While Sally works with her own hand-dyed fabrics and thread onto black cloth and frequently includes text and found objects in her work, Odette’s clear lines and textures as well as her choice of strong colours, on the other hand conjure up a light filled high spirited Lebensfreude.

While ‘double’ refers to the two streams of artistic output, ‘vision’ here speaks less of the actual mechanics of our eyes, but rather it refers to the farsightedness in both artists as they impart their skill and knowledge through their teaching, ensuring the spreading of a wellbeing through creative empowerment.

The departure point for this exhibition might have been one goal, one vision for the artists ….being friends it is also likely that they discussed ideas about it while they worked towards it…the resulting body of work though speaks of separate paths. Needlework techniques acquired over a life time of individual practice… meet here, as Sally and Odette share some of their work with us … thus giving the viewer their gift of double vision….which lets us …while seeing transformations of their experiences – contemplate our own. Thank you.”

Gina Niederhumer

Cape Town, November 5, 2015

The exhibition remains open until 18th December 2015. Please visit and enjoy!

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Double Vision Exhibition

Mogalakwena Gallery, Cape Town        6 November – 18 December 2015

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I will be in Cape Town next week to attend the opening of  Double Vision, a two-woman fibre art exhibition featuring the work of myself and Odette Tolksdorf, a fellow fibre artist and friend from Kwazulu-Natal.

Odette and I met in Durban during the 1980’s when we were part of a dynamic group of innovative fibre artists who were active in KwaZulu-Natal at the time. Intent on finding new ways of working with fabric, we adjusted traditional quilt making techniques to create our own particular form of expression. Those were exciting times, and as public interest grew with this emerging art form, Odette and I had many opportunities to take part in group exhibitions, both locally and internationally. Both of us worked from our home studios in Durban and became known not only as regular exhibitors, but as teachers of Fibre Art and Design.

In 2000 I moved to Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape, where I set up a private art studio and continued to teach drawing and offer creative sewing workshops. The geographical divide between me and my fibre art friends from KwaZulu-Natal meant that I was forced to work alone and in so doing, forged a way of working that is now my trademark style.

Meanwhile in Durban, Odette continued to make art, teach design and contemporary quiltmaking and widened the scope of her activities to teaching overseas and becoming the South African representative/co-coordinator for the World Quilt and Textile Competition, held annually in the USA. Since 2000 she has organized art, craft and culture tours of South Africa with well-known textile artists, American Nancy Crow and Canadian Valerie Hearder.

Odette and I both have a strong appreciation for textiles and are founder members of Fibreworks, a group that promotes fibre art in South Africa.

With both of us appearing in Elbe Coetsee’s recently published book “Craft Art in South Africa” it seemed fitting that we should join forces in Double Vision to exhibit some of our work from the past few years.

If you happen to be in Cape Town over the festive season, please pop in to view this feast of colour.

The opening will be at 5.30 pm on 5th November and the opening talk will be given by Gina Niederhumer.

You will find the Mogalakwena Gallery at 3 Church St. Cape Town. Open Monday-Friday 9:00 – 16:00

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Stitching Stories

It’s night time in the Bushveld and I sit under a canopy of stars. From the foliage alongside my verandah, a chorus of insects provides the backdrop to the frogs that croak melodiously from the banks of the Mogalakwena River, flowing silently not far beyond the boundary fence. Far across the treetops comes the call of a nightjar, and behind me, high in a tree, the intermittent, soft tones of an owl. The night orchestra is joined by the occasional bray of a donkey and superimposing it all, come the lyrics of “Mandela”, blasting from a transistor radio in the nearby village. The balmy air brushes my skin gently and I sit here in the darkness, breathing deeply, wallowing in the sensation of a night in the African bush. I don’t want to move, for this is balm to my soul, so I linger a while longer before disappearing under the mosquito net and drifting off to sleep. At three in the morning, I surface briefly and hear the distant throb of drums coming from the direction of the village. It is a comforting sound that I know well from my childhood, living on a Zimbabwe farm.

I awake in the morning to a cacophony of bird calls; little brown jobs twittering outside my window, and the screech of a Woodland Kingfisher as it swoops from tree to tree. Not far off, there is the distinctive chatter of Guinea fowl and Natal Francolins going about their way. I blink at the sun that is pouring in through the window and when I hear the tinkle of cow bells and the swish, swish of someone sweeping the driveway, I become alert and realize that a new day has begun at the Mogalakwena Artist’s Retreat and that I’d better get up to see what’s going on.

My room at the Mogalakwena Artist's Retreat

My room at the Mogalakwena Artist’s Retreat

The Artist's Retreat at Mogalakwena, near Alldays,Limpopo Province

The Artist’s Retreat at Mogalakwena, near Alldays,Limpopo Province

The comfortable rooms of the artists retreat at Mogalakwena

The comfortable rooms of the artists retreat at Mogalakwena

As I gather my things together, I hear the sound of the gate being opened and the voices of laughing women.

I am excited, for this is what I have been waiting for… a chance to meet these women and see the work that is being done at the Mogalakwena Craft Art Centre, which is situated just across the garden from the retreat. The farm, Mogalakwena is owned by the Coetsee family, and is situated near Alldays in Limpopo Province, South Africa. There are various sections to the farm, and apart from the art retreat, they offer accommodation at their luxury river lodge and bush camp. From the time that I first read Craft Art in South Africa, authored by Dr.Elbe Coetsee, I have been intrigued by the work being done by this remarkable woman, and I look forward to meeting both her and the women who work at the art centre.

Elbe Coetsee, founder of the Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation

Elbe Coetsee, founder of the Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation

It is most fortuitous, therefore, that my friend Petra Terblanche, with whom I am traveling, is currently living in this tranquil paradise and what’s more, she is directly involved in the project and is documenting and collating the creative work being produced on the farm.

The Mogalakwena Craft's Centre

The Mogalakwena Craft’s Centre

A group of women from the nearby village come each day to this centre to embroider and document their stories

A group of women from the nearby villages come each day to this centre to embroider and document their stories

I learn that Elbe established The Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation in 1994, in an effort to improve the lives and living conditions of the local communities. With a PhD in social entrepreneurship and a deep interest in the craft art business, she was ideally positioned to set up the foundation and the craft art centre from which the women could work. Her main aim is to create sustainable, value-adding employment opportunities for disadvantaged women and to restore and develop traditional craft art skills that for various reasons have to some extent become dormant or lost. She is actively involved in the product development, raising standards so that the goods are suitable for the international market. The products produced at the centre are sold through a variety of South African outlets and can be viewed and purchased from the Mogalakwena Gallery, which opened in Capetown in 2008.

Another important aspect of Elbe’s work is the research, documentation and preservation of African oral history, traditions and material culture. Her foundation promotes research with the aim to further not only the understanding and knowledge in the field of anthropology, ecology and social entrepreneurship in Africa, but also to establish a national and international awareness and appreciation of African culture.

I am shown around the craft art centre by Alletha, whose task is to see that everything runs smoothly whilst Elbe is in Capetown running the gallery. Although the women produce a wide array of goods, the work that most captures my attention when I enter their workshop are the delightful embroideries that document the local African traditions. These beautifully rendered embroideries are physical documents of traditional beliefs and customs that can be passed on down through the generations. It is Petra Terblanche’s task to photograph them all and to create a written and digital record of all the work produced, ensuring that these valuable stories will not be lost.

To view some of these embroideries, click on the thumbnails below:

On many levels the work being done here is of interest to me, for not only am I a fibre artist with a passion for textiles, I believe that it is important to journal and document the rich stories of our lives, be it for personal, therapeutic purposes or as a record for future generations. I am also admiring of women who are committed to helping those who are less fortunate. I believe that the empowerment of women is essential in this modern society and I applaud women like Elbe and Petra, who are giving so much of themselves to help others.

Three days later, we have crossed the Mogalakwena River, and are making our way along a dusty road towards the magnificent Soutpansberg Mountains that are beckoning us from the horizon, and I am musing upon the fact that despite this country’s problems, there are many good people beavering away, doing their bit towards creating a stronger and healthier society.

In my next post, the final in this Limpopo series, I will be sharing the work of yet another amazing woman…!

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