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Sunday, November 15, 2009


(Pic: Sanelisiwe Hlophe models one of the dozen hats to be seen on the calendar)

Phansi Museum is to launch numerous exciting initiatives.

One of Durban’s most valuable cultural hubs, the Phansi Museum, is launching a number of exciting initiatives. These include their iconic annual calendar; the opening of the BAT shop; a new music label and inaugural CD; strategic partnerships and a new travelogue.

The simultaneous launch of these innovative cultural projects is no mean feat for an independent unsubsidised museum and heritage custodian. The museum houses some of the most interesting, rare and comprehensive collections of African art and artefacts to be found in the continent, and constantly updates and refreshes its collection and strategic partnerships to remain interesting and current.

Their flagship product is a beautifully-designed, funky wall / desk calendar which this year is a collaboration between the Phansi Museum and a group of women from the valley of 1000 Hills / Ndwedwe area. The area is well-known for its ceremonial hats decorated with a combination of beadwork, safety pins and wire. The museum held several workshops with a group of women art makers from the area and out of this process came a dozen fantastical outrageous hats – perfect for acknowledging the 2010 World Cup. The calendar has been an annual cultural event since 1992 when it was initiated by the creative team in the early days of the BAT Centre.

Great news ahead of the Christmas shopping flurry is that the BAT shop will re-open at the Phansi complex. One of the anchor tenants in the early days of the BAT Centre, Marissa Fick Jordaan and her team of art makers will re-open their shop which will stock innovative locally-made artworks, craft pieces and d├ęcor items.

Also to be celebrated is a strategic partnership with Andries Botha and Janine Zagel and their astonishing Amazwe Abesifazane Voices of Women Memory Cloth project, Botha and Zagel gave thousands of women from urban and rural backgrounds pieces of A4 cloth and encouraged them to embroider / decorate the cloths with their own personal narratives themed to The Day I Will Never Forget. The result is over 2,000 beautiful, evocative cloths which have travelled the world and have been exhibited at the United Nations. The full collection of cloths has now moved to Phansi Museum and is being exhibited on a rotating basis.

As well as launching their 2010 calendar, Phansi Publishing is launching an informative, illustrative, hands-on travelogue entitled Mali Moments and Other Ramblings by Paul Mikula which chronicles Mikula’s fascination for and visits to beautiful Mali. The travelogue comprises useful information with prose and photographs.

Another recently invigorated string in the Phansi bow is BAT Music. The vision of BAT Music is to produce an annual recording by an established local artist with a good track record but is as yet unsigned with no music released commercially. The first artist to be featured in this pilot project is Vusi Mkhize whose first album, Amathongo, will be released on the BAT music label. Mkhize is a veteran of the KZN music scene having performed as session musician for literally dozens of local music outfits, and was a member of Sakhula in the ‘90s. Until now, his original compositions have been not been commercially professionally recorded.

The Phansi Museum started in 2000 as a small private collection in the basement of Roberts House in Glenwood which is one of the few original Victorian houses in Durban and the family home of Esther Roberts after which Frere Rd is now named. In 2006, the existing management team took over and with funding from the Bartel Arts Trust, were able to extend their operation, collection and projects. They took over all three floors of the Roberts House building to include other donated / loaned items in order to conserve and catalogue their ever increasing collection of African artefacts. The collection includes beadwork, earplugs, wire baskets, headrests, fertility dolls and cloths.

One of the museum highlights is the collection of 30 life-size marionettes in ceremonial wear from different regions from Southern Africa which have travelled to New York last year, to great acclaim. The puppets are made by Ludi Novak and curated by Max Mikula.

“We are endeavouring to inspire local people about their own distinctive culture – especially school children and learners – with the hope that they will take ownership and pride in our beautiful South African heritage,” says Max Mikula, Museum Director.

Phansi can be found at 500 Esther Roberts Road (formerly Frere Road), Glenwood, Durban. There is a great coffee shop on site - Ikhishi - which serves light meals, anytime snacks and great coffees from 11h00 until 15h00 daily. Phansi Museum is open from Monday to Saturday (08h00 to 16h00) by appointment. The museum receives financial assistance from the Bartel Arts Trust and the Ethekwini Municipality. Public entry to the museum is R35 (R20 children and students). More information from the Museum on 031 206 2889 or 083 450 3270 or email: or visit