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Saturday, October 12, 2013


Ifa Lethu Foundation, the country’s largest heritage art repatriation and creative entrepreneurial development organization, has announced its 2014 20 Year Celebration Programme.

“2014 is a significant year in South Africa’s road to freedom,” says Ifa Lethu CEO Dr Narissa Ramdhani. “Since 2005, Ifa Lethu has been advocating both the heritage of oppressed art during the apartheid years by repatriating lost township artworks from that era, then taking our collection across the globe. Our exhibitions – held in many countries including Australia, UK, France – have travelled both the country and the globe. In recent years we have been invited to take our collections to London for the Olympics, to leading global auction house Bonhams, and most recently to Nantes for the French/South African Season.”

“During apartheid, local black artists could not exhibit their works as they were seen as ‘protest art’ during the period 1960 to the 1980s. Some were lucky enough to go into exile and many became famous artists in their own right, with their work demanding very high prices on the global art scene. The majority of painters, sculptors, musicians and poets could not escape and they struggled to not only practice their craft but to make even a meagre living. They were banned from exhibiting, their work was perceived to be of no value, but they produced an important record of the struggle of the time and the conditions in the townships. It is thanks to foreigners who visited our shores during these years that their works were purchased and taken out of the country to tell their stories. To date, and thanks to generous donors, over 400 of their arts have been repatriated by Ifa Lethu and feature in our Collections.”

In recent years, Ifa Lethu’s focus has broadened to include the development element aligned to the National Development Plan and Mzanzi’s Golden Economy. This has resulted in the development of creative entrepreneurs and successful employment creation for South Africa’s creative practitioners.

“Recently we have taken our enterprise development  programme to rural communities via our mobile ‘Creative Hands’ workshops, set up permanent business incubators, and focused on the crafters in small villages and put them through the same training as our young artists,” says Ramdhani. “Their works may be purchased from us or at various airport shops.”

Additionally, and with the help of the Wits Origins Centre, the Foundation started a unique fossil casting training programme which has been running for the past three years. “There is a world-wide shortage of fossil casters, and our graduates have gone on to be employed at institutions such as Wits, the Ditsong Museums, the Cradle of Human Kind, or to set up their own businesses such as ‘Fossils for Africa’, doing work that produces casts to be sold at places of hominoid interest,” she says.

The plans for the 20 Years of Freedom campaign include:

A National Art competition for schools in South Africa to allow young learners to produce high end artwork on the required theme.  The winner will be taken to London and will be allowed a guest exhibition at Bonhams.

Production of 20 Year Signature Craft Product - A national competition for design students to design such a product.  The actual product will then be crafted by our rural crafters for distribution.

“Plans are well in place and we’ll be announcing more details as we progress, as well on our Facebook page and website,” concludes Ramdhani.

More information from Dr Narissa Ramdhani, CEO, Ifa Lethu Foundation on 012 346 2965.