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Thursday, April 28, 2011


The Durban Art Gallery is the first public institution in South Africa to buy sculptures made by internationally renowned artist Pitika Ntuli.

It has acquired two of his major works. The first, Madiba Reconfigured’, is carved from the 200-year-old wild mahogany tree that fell in Mitchell’s Park in 2005. The symbolic piece raises fundamental question about who Madiba is and who he would like to be.

The second with its explicit title that speaks to centuries of oppression and colonisation, Please Don’t Push Me Around Anymore, is a metal work crafted from workers tools including wheelbarrows, spades and hoes.

Asked about the work, Pitika Ntuli said: “Rummaging through scrap heaps and dumps, tearing my flesh and my clothes, I uncover putative works of art - wheelbarrows, motor bike frames, differentials, spanners, spades and forks, hoes and picks. As a poet and academic as well as a community person, I seek a language that is accessible but deep. This piece, which is about recycling, is also about the need to recycle our original intentions when we set out to liberate ourselves from oppression.”

The concept of African Art has been, and continues to be, much contested. Since its ‘discovery’ by the great western explorers, African Art has been boxed and limited, marginalised and misunderstood. Curiosities collected and frozen in museums, African masks, thrones, weapons, headrests and cutlery have been denuded of their spiritual and communal, their practical and aesthetic, significance. So African Art is predominantly seen through the looking glass of a jaundiced western eye, and rarely is modern African Art considered to be a serious contender for great art. Thus the purchase of these recently made pieces has profound importance for the development of art and art appreciation in South Africa.

The significance of Durban Art Gallery’s decision is even greater when the scarcity of local sculptors is taken into consideration. Despite the wealth of culture that survives within South Africa, very few sculptors have attained widespread acclaim. In contrast with West Africa where sculpture is thriving, it is only Dumile Fene, Noria Mabasa, Lucas Sithole, Andries Botha and Jackson Hlongwane who are considered leading South African sculptors. The addition of Pitika Ntuli to this august group can only benefit the country and the region.

Scent of Invisible Footprints eGagasini, the retrospective exhibition of Ntuli’s work at the Durban Art Gallery, is open until May 4. More information from Mdu Xakaza on 031 311 2269 or