national Arts Festival Banner

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


(The title of the image is "Woza May’fohloza")
Thunga Uthimule (sew and sneeze) - the art and times of Nhlanhla Ben Nsusha is an exhibition due to open at the Durban Art Gallery on November 26.

Born in 1947 in Umzumbe, KwaZulu-Natal, and now residing in Dobsonville, Ben Nsusha is a critically acclaimed artist with a 40-year career in which his work has been exhibited locally and abroad. Nsusha is renowned for his skill in mixing materials and techniques, and for his attention to detail. His exhibition Thunga uThimule is a reflection of his observations of people and society and includes ceramics, sculpture, printmaking and painting

Comments on the exhibition and the artist by Leopold Ivan Bargna, Lecturer in Social and Visual Anthropology, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester: “The title of this exhibition is Thunga and Uthimule/Sew and Sneeze. It speaks to rupture, dreams torn apart and need to be urgently sown lest we lose ourselves. When we sneeze we say Makhosi! We invoke the power of the ancestors. The titles of the artworks are in Zulu to root them in their native culture that in itself is fast become a rainbow bird!”

Bargna continues: “Thunga-Uthimule! celebrates one of South Africa’s great artists whose diversity of media, themes, materials is phenomenal and characterized by originality of concepts and ideas as well as exquisite technical expertise. I will return to this later. But for now, who is Nhlanhla Ben Nsusha? Where does he fit into the South African art scene? How did he get to where he is? By the time I met him at the beginning of the 80’s in London Ben had already been to Rorke’s Drift Art school where some of the greatest printmakers and artists were trained by missionaries in the arid corners of the republic.

“He had had shared experiences with the likes of Cyprian Shilakoe, Azaria Mbatha, John Muafangejo and others. The 12980’s were the height of anti-apartheid struggles in the UK. Antoinette, my wife and I were at the centre of the Cultural Boycott taking over British art galleries and organizing art exhibitions of paintings, prints and sculptures and once the exhibition was set we would then invite poets, dancers,writers, critics and musicians to create happenings that drew hundreds of visitors.

“Multi-talented artists, musicians, composers like Eugene Skeef, poets and short story writers like Ujebe Masokoane, Mbulelo Mzamane, Molefe Pheto, John Matshikiza, jazz giants like Julian Bahule, Dudu Phukwana, Claude Deppa, Lucky Ranku, Pinise Saul, Julia Mathunjwa, Painters like the indomitable Lallitha Jawahirililal and many others from Chile, El Salvador, Ghana, Senegal, Grenada congregated.

“At that time I was more fascinated by beginning great sculptures that I could not finish whilst on the other hand Ben gloried in picture perfect finish of his work arguing against me that finishing itself was an art! Whilst teaching at Camberwell College of Art, London School of Printing and Middlesex University Ben was always a good resource for me, our discussions on techniques and indigenous ideas motivated my own work.

“He went to the best art schools in the UK. Chelsea College of Art and at the Slade School of Art where the greats like Henry Moore studied and taught. Ben has walked on the footsteps of giants and his feet have grown into giant feet the width, breath, depth and diversity of the works exhibited here speak for themselves and for Nhlanhla!”

Nsusha works with materials such as leather patches, buttons, electric wires of different colours, jeans fabric and R10 notes.

Thunga Uthimule (sew and sneeze) - the art and times of Nhlanhla Ben Nsusha officially opens at 17h30 for 18h00 on November 26 in the Durban Art Gallery. The guest speaker will be Prof Pitika Ntuli. The exhibition runs until January 25, 2016. The Durban Art Gallery is situated on the second floor City Hall, Anton Lembede (Smith) Street (opposite the Playhouse). More information on 031 311 2262/6.