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Sunday, March 16, 2014


(Image from Impressions of Rorke's Drift - the Jumuna Collection. Dumisani Mabaso. 1984)

Impressions of Rorke’s Drift - The Jumuna Collection is running at Museum Africa in Johannesburg until May 25. Thereafter, it will move to Cape Town to the Iziko South African National Gallery where it will be on view from July 23 to November 2, 2014.

Made possible through gracious support from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), Impressions of Rorke’s Drift is curated by Thembinkosi Goniwe drawing works from the Jumuna Family collection. It looks at the phenomenal legacy of KwaZulu-Natal’s iconic Rorke’s Drift Arts and Craft Centre. 

Situated on the battlefield of Rorke’s Drift (1879) a historical site of the Anglo Zulu War some 45km near Dundee, the significance of The Rorke’s Drift Art and Craft Centre lies in its prints, which have made an enormous contribution to South African art. Many alumni of the Centre went on to have significant careers, including artists such as Sam Nhlengethwa, Pat Mautloa, John Muafangejo, Kay Hassan, Dumisani Mabaso, Bongiwe Dhlomo, Azaria Mbatha, Paul Sibisi, Lionel Davis and Sandile Zulu.

The original ‘Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre’, established by Swedish missionaries Peder and Ulla Gowenius in 1962, gave a voice to many talented artists who would otherwise have been denied the opportunity to further their craft. The Swedish missionaries also enabled the work to be seen by an international audience at a time when South Africa’s art could not easily access a global stage. 

The Centre concentrated initially on weaving and pottery, but these facilities developed into a printmaking studio which attracted artists from all over the country and beyond. The process of print-making enabled art to reach a wider audience – works could travel to multiple destinations and was affordable for the artists and the buyers.

“The importance of Rorke’s Drift cannot be under estimated,” explains Goniwe. The Rorke’s Drift Art and Crafts School was one of the only places in South Africa that Black artists could study and practice art during the Apartheid period. "At a difficult time in our history, men and women were given a creative platform, instilling in them confidence and a sense of community, establishing a legacy for the growth of democracy and freedom within the nation today. Impressions of Rorke’s Drift showcases works of artists who contributed to the making of democratic South Africa."

Regrettably, no formal archive or permanent exhibition of the work from Rorke’s Drift exists, but the Jumuna Family from Durban has been collecting pieces made in the Centre since the 1960s and have graciously made their family collection available for this exhibition. As a result, the public is offered a chance to see a significant body of work representing the Rorke’s Drift legacy - in one exhibition – for the first time.

The exhibition showcases over 100 pieces (mostly prints) from 17 artists, and a fascinating educational programme will accompany the show, including input from experts within the print and art sectors.

Impressions of Rorke’s Drift – The Jumuna Collection is on show at Museum Africa, Old Market Building, 121 Bree Street, Newtown; from March 10 until May 25, 2014. Museum Africa is open Tuesday to Sunday from 09h00 to 17h00, and closed on Mondays. For more information see

For more information on the Centre see