(“Mandela turns 88” by Jane Makhubele)
Phansi Museum is currently hosting the art of Jane and Billy Makhubele in tribute of South Africa’s Human Rights celebration, which remains enormously significant in South Africa.
The Phansi has a collection of shawls from the Tsonga- Shangaan people of Limpopo. These shawls, 1,5 metre x 1 metre in dimension of Indian cloth with the locally preferred design on a dark-blue background is chosen from the local trader and draped over the shoulders in the style of the community.
For special occasions a married woman wears a richly decorated shawl to proudly show off her status, artistic skill, inventiveness and beauty. The favourite layout seems to be a horizontal panel filled with stories and patterns, bordered above and below by geometric designs and messages recording the name of the wearer, the address, and sometimes including the name of her husband who works far away. Whatever is important in the wearer’s life at that time is often lovingly illustrated on the shawls.
Authorities believe that the illustration of attire, began with the search of a local identity and slowly developed into great artistic endeavours from the 1950’s and onwards, when men spent many months away on the mines and returned laden with treasures from the urban markets where they gathered treasures and trinkets to bring back to the family at home. There they would embellish the garment to celebrate love, family, home and community.
When Billy Makhubele, a well- known wire sculptor from Duiwelskloof in Limpopo at the time, married his second wife Jane, she brought with her a great love of beadwork and craft and soon had the whole family making minceka (shawls) that were sold to the community.
In 1994, the momentous year in South African history, their love for Mandela and the peaceful revolution resulted in the invention of a series of minceka that highlighted the iconic events during the first few years of change. Always enthusiastic newspaper readers, they cut out the most spectacular events and Jane converted them into shawls of celebration and memory. The Phansi is fortunate enough to have a few of these on exhibition for the public to enjoy.
“When viewing the minceka, it is evident that colour is used to express the pure joy and renewal of life or the momentous occasion. The red powerful outline of Nelson Mandela for instance is the pumping heart, the blood, the passion, the new life. Against a black background of reverence that speaks of the respect for the ancestors. At home in KwaZulu-Natal, we would refer to the light blue surface as being the colour of the first, i.e. the first-born in the family. The face is featureless because as tradition dictates, would be an insult to the grand occasion. The white used in the pieces depicts the bones of those that come before and the gold represents the sun, the treasure of earth,” explains Phansi’s director, Sharon Crampton.
“Jane Makhubele says it all: Her words and colours tumble over each other in outbursts of wishes and dreams.”