Introducing South African Arts And Crafts
South Africa’s rich craft culture. Meet a hand picked selection of creative trailblazers, the powers of innovation, producing forms that are both craft and art.
South Africa’s art and craft scene reflects the country’s rich cultural diversity. You’ll find skilled craftsmen and women working everywhere, from the pavements and vibrant markets of South Africa’s big cities, to remote rural villages. Traditional objects find new markets as South African creative skills evolve interesting ways.
South Africa abounds with creative talent, reflected in the output of artists and craftsmen and women from around the country.
South African arts and crafts
South African arts and crafts are made from every possible medium. Traditional materials like beads, grass, leather, wood and clay are worked using traditional skills, while materials such as telephone wire, plastic bags, glass and bottle tops are used to create vibrant, contemporary craft items that reflect our cultural diversity.
Art and craft objects in South Africa
Art and craft objects in South Africa include items like wire art and Eco-friendly bags made from recycled bottle tops , traditional beadwork, pottery and woven baskets, tableware, fabrics, ceramics and beautiful wooden carvings.
You will find a number of markets and collectives selling modern and traditional African craft in every city and in cultural villages dotted around the country. Often, these South African arts and crafts co-operatives directly benefit local communities, teaching skills and providing employment through tourism.
These cooperatives also nurture hidden talent, with skilled artists emerging to attain national and international attention for their work. One example of this is the work of ceramicist Bonnie Ntshalintshali, with its almost phantasmagoric detail, which has gone well beyond the confines of traditional African pottery and been bought by galleries around the world.
Traditionally, San artists found their materials in nature. Their canvases were rock and stone surfaces in caves, under overhangs and on the open veld. Their paints were finely ground ochre, charcoal and clay, mixed with natural binding agents.
As the pressures of modernity have increasingly eroded San culture, they have also resulted in fewer and fewer San artists. By promoting their art, this art gallery in Cape Town wants to create better understanding of the problems facing the remaining San people, and how these can be overcome.
According to Art of Africa it was the ‘passion for genuine African art’ that brought the gallery in contact with contemporary San artists. Their art portrays a unique relationship with the natural environment and their past. It is energetic and moving, using powerful shapes and bold colours. With the support of various museums, organisations, galleries and authors, Art of Africa began to specialise in the promotion and preservation of San art.
Sculptor Phutuma Seoka is another artist who has taken a traditional craft – Venda wood carving – and used it to create a cast of eccentric – and highly sought after – characters.
Esther Mahlangu, has adapted Ndebele paining techniques using distinctive, highly coloured geometric Ndebele designs for use on everything from cars to aeroplanes.
South Africa also has many galleries and museums that showcase examples of traditional and more recent South African art – from that of the San to artists like Irma Stern, Gerald Sekoto and Walter Battiss.