Posts Tagged With: Thomas Kubayi

Mountain Streams and Dancing Fish

After a short break, I am back with the final leg of our journey through Limpopo, and we have left Mogalakwena en route to Louis Trichardt, making our way along the base of the magnificent Soutpansberg Mountains.

The Soutpansberg Mountains

The Soutpansberg Mountains

The weather is warm and Petra and I are in high spirits after our highly eventful holiday. 8 km’s beyond Louis Trichardt, on the R55 to Vivo, we take a right turn and drive a short distance through thick, lush bush up to the Madi a Thava Mountain Lodge, nestled amongst trees in a sprawling natural garden. As I climb from the dusty vehicle, I am engulfed in a cool refreshing breeze that wafts down from the mountain. Savouring the quality of the air, I wander across to the edge of the car park and remember the sense of safety this place provides, embraced by the protective arms of the mountain. I have been here before, a long time ago, and it feels good to be back. I am eager to see all the developments and to check out their amazing collection of art. This lodge is the perfect place to round off our trip, for not only do I know that I will be creatively inspired here, I also know that it is going to be a wonderfully comfortable way to spend the final few days of my holiday.

The entrance to the lodge is as I remember it, open and inviting, with large Venda pots on the verandah giving just a hint of what is to come. I am filled with anticipation as I enter the building, and feel immediately at home in the bright and tastefully furnished interior, filled to capacity with beautiful examples of African arts and crafts…and I don’t mean curio art, but really good pottery, woodwork, embroidery and beading from the Limpopo region.

Madi a Thava

Madi a Thava

A sculpture by

A sculpture that announces the presence of the Dancing Fish Gallery

We are greeted by our friend, Marcelle Bosch, who is the owner, manager and general overall superwoman who maintains and continually develops this little piece of Paradise.

Marcelle Bosch

Marcelle Bosch

Marcelle is a woman of vision, passionately committed to promoting local artists and providing an outlet through which they can sell their work, both at the lodge and through her very comprehensive website. She is actively involved in helping and motivating these artists, offering workshops and discussion groups through which they can inspire and motivate each other.

She is also extremely knowledgeable about the customs and traditions of the people who live in the area, specifically the Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho groups, and she offers excursions that take visitors into the rural areas to meet the local people, so that they can learn first hand about the rich cultural heritage of Limpopo.

A guest to the lodge, even an overnight visitor, cannot help but be affected by the richness of these cultures, for there is visual evidence of them everywhere, from the decor in the main lodge, to the sculptures that adorn the colourful, stylish bedrooms, to the informative Dancing Fish Gallery, which is situated across the lawn from the main lodge building.

Then, in a sunlit room attached to the lodge, Marcelle has gathered together a group of local women, who are beavering away happily on their sewing machines, producing colourful linen and other soft items, which are available to buy through her shop, but are also sold through outlets around the country, and beautifully displayed in all the lodge bedrooms.

The gorgeous bedrooms at Madi a Thava

The gorgeous bedrooms at Madi a Thava, adorned with colourful soft furnishings made by the Madi a Thava art group

These colourful cushions are an example of the work produced by the women at Madi a Thava

These colourful cushions are an example of the work produced by the women at Madi a Thava

The food at the lodge is delicious and on this warm Sunday evening we sit out on the open verandah and enjoy a candle-lit dinner with entertainment provided by the chef, who after pounding on his drum, sings to us with his most amazing baritone voice! I am delighted and savour the moment as much as the meal that follows.

We use the next couple of days to go out and see the local artists in the area, all within easy driving distance from the lodge. I have written about these visits to Thomas Kubayi and the Northern Sotho dance group in my previous blog posts.

So on the final day, we are relaxing within the grounds of the lodge and I am spending time enjoying The Dancing Fish Gallery. This houses an impressive collection of Tsonga, Venda and Northern Sotho art and artifacts, beautifully curated by Petra Terblanche, with whom I have been traveling. Petra’s passionate interest in the local traditions and her long history as a museum curator are clearly obvious as one enters the cool interior of the building. She has carefully laid out the display so that it takes the visitor on a journey through the traditions of each cultural group, with fine examples of their art and craft.

Petra Terblanche, curator of the Dancing Fish Gallery

Petra Terblanche, curator of the Dancing Fish Gallery

To view a sampling of work on show at the Dancing Fish Gallery, click on the images below:

The story unfolds through beautifully designed posters, produced by Petra’s friend, Harold Kolkman, a social anthropologist from Holland, with whom Petra has worked on numerous other projects.

A poster that explains the history ad traditions of the Hananwa people

A poster that explains the history and traditions of the Hananwa people

After a visit to this gallery, one becomes aware of just how fascinating the history of Limpopo Province is, with the arts and crafts from the area so colourful and multi layered. As it is my last day in the area, I find I am reluctant to leave this richly creative environment, trying to absorb as much as I can before I return to my studio. I stop before a quote by Nelson Mandela.

“The collision of culture does not necessarily lead to subjugation & hegemony. It may also lead to subtle cross-pollination of ideas, words, customs, art-forms, culinary & religious practices.
This dynamic interaction has always played a role in cultural enrichment which has resulted in an extraordinary fertile & unique South African culture which binds our nation in linguistic, cultural, culinary, & religious diversity in so many forms”.                                                                                                                                                           -Nelson Mandela

It strikes me that this place and the work that is being done here, is a perfect example of what Mandela was speaking about. There is a sense of good people helping other people in an atmosphere of unity and respect and to stay at the lodge is to experience a wonderful blend of cultures, all brought together in a very unique way.

Marcelle is constantly upgrading, renovating and developing the property, all the time keeping her eye on the bigger picture, which is to maintain high standards in ethical, community based tourism. This year, amongst many other things, she is embarking on a series of creative workshops, which will be held at the lodge and facilitated by well known South African artists. For participants this should be an absolute treat…to learn and be creative in a creative environment, whilst staying in the luxury of the lodge, spoiled by excellent service and surrounded by the peace and infinite beauty of the mountains.

The three days that we have spent here have left me rested, restored and inspired. It is the perfect end to a wonderful, enriching journey, and now it is time to go home to process all that I have seen and experienced.

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My Mandela Moment

Every once in a while I come upon an artist whose work really moves me. One such artist is sculptor,Thomas Kubayi, who lives on a hilltop in the village of Tshivhuyuani, near Elim, Northern Limpopo. The first time that I came upon his work was in 2009, when I was doing a tour of all the artists in the area. I remember clearly my visit to Thomas’s studio and home, and being so impressed by his work that I couldn’t depart without purchasing one of his sculptures. To this day it has pride of place in my home.

A fish by Thomas Kubayi that I bought in 2009

A fish by Thomas Kubayi that I bought in 2009

One of the reasons that I like his work so much is that not only is Thomas an excellent craftsman, but he understands the soul of the wood he carves. In turn, he imbues his carvings with a spirituality that reflects the soul of a good man. In addition to being a sculptor, he is a musician, drum builder, story teller, teacher and active community member, sharing his talents with any who are willing to learn.

Today is the 9th December 2013 and the world is in deep mourning for Nelson Mandela, who passed away four days ago. Although we have still not been able to catch the news or see any of the television coverage due to us being on the road for most of the week, I feel the sense of loss and sadness for the passing of this great man. In a way I am glad that I have not been sucked into the drama unfolding on the television, for it has allowed me an authentic space to think, feel and reflect upon what it actually means to have lost the father of our nation. On the other hand I do feel a little cheated, that perhaps by not watching TV, I have somehow missed out on witnessing this momentous event of history.

Anyway, we are on our way back from our rendezvous with the dancers, when Petra mentions that we have enough time left to visit one of the many artists in the area, and who is it to be? Immediately I know whose work I would like to see and suggest that we should pop in to visit Thomas in his studio. She is happy to oblige.

The turnoff to Thomas Kubayo Studio at Tshivhuyuni village, Limpopo

The turnoff to Thomas Kubayi Studio at Tshivhuyuni village, Limpopo

Thomas Kubayi outside his art studio

Thomas Kubayi outside his art studio

Thomas is as cheerful and welcoming as I remember him and we exchange greetings and good wishes before entering his studio. I am eager to see what new work he has to show and to possibly be reminded of some I have seen before.

As we enter, I am not prepared for the impact of the sculpture that is standing in the centre of the room, surrounded by smaller figures over which it bows with an air of humility. It is a beautifully sculpted figure of Nelson Mandela, several metres high, with wings that reach into the rafters of the building. I have seen this sculpture before, on my last visit, but this time, given the events of the past few days, it takes on a whole new significance, and I am struck by how prophetic this creation is, given that it was made well over 5 years ago. It seems such a fitting time to be seeing it again.

Feeling quite overwhelmed, I crouch on the cool cement floor, looking up at the artwork and feel the angelic presence of Madiba, his goodness and humility radiating from the glow of the carefully carved wood. The light from the open window catches the edge of his face, and the illumination elevates the sculpture into the celestial realm. In his one hand he holds a vessel, in the other a handful of seed.

In this most unexpected scenario, I realise that I have been given my chance to remember and pay tribute to the man who brought freedom to this country, and what better way to do it than sitting in the hut of an honest and gifted man, in the rural heart of South Africa? I draw a deep breath and absorb the moment with gratitude.

My Mandela moment. Thomas Kubayi's sculpture of Nelson Mandela, surrounded by other works from the artist and his students

My Mandela moment. Thomas Kubayi’s sculpture of Nelson Mandela, surrounded by other works from the artist and his students

A sculpture of Nelson Mandela, by artist, Thomas Kubayi

A close-up of the sculpture of Nelson Mandela, by artist, Thomas Kubayi

The humility of the man is captured so eloquently in the sandaled foot.

The humility of the figure is amplified by the simplicity of the sandaled feet

From the main studio area, Thomas then takes us through to another room to view a whole array of his beautifully hand carved African musical instruments, which he then shows us how to play.

Thomas plays his marimba, while Petra enjoys the music

Thomas plays his marimba, while Petra enjoys the music

Thomas making music on his hand made musical instruments

Thomas making music on his hand made instruments

We move outside and across to his main gallery, enjoying the many sculptures that are displayed in the garden between the two buildings.

Thomas is famous for his amazing garden benches

Thomas is famous for his amazing garden benches

A crocodile bench outside his gallery

A crocodile bench outside his gallery

The doorkeeper

The doorkeeper

Thomas Kubayi Art Gallery

Thomas Kubayi Art Gallery

To see a few more examples of Thomas’s work, click on the images in the gallery below:

A snapshot of me with Thomas

A snapshot of me with Thomas

Needless to say, I did not leave empty handed, and I am thrilled to be adding one more Thomas Kubayi to my collection.

My new Thomas Kubayi sculpture

My new Thomas Kubayi sculpture

So if anyone out there is in the market for a show stopping and meaningful piece of artwork, contact Thomas, or better still, pay him a visit at his studio.

Categories: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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