national Arts Festival Banner

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Phansi goes Phezulu Gallery presents Magical Msinga an exhibition of pencil crayon drawings by Jannie van Heerden and supplemented by work in leather, clay wood and beads from Msinga.

Phansi goes Phezulu Gallery will enthral visitors to the Museum with an exhibition of mesmerizing pencil crayon sketches of the existentialist landscapes of Msinga by Jannie van Heerden. Appointed as the Deputy Chief Education Specialist-Visual Arts/Design, for the KZN Education Department in 1988, van Heerden spent many a hot dry day in the region of Msinga assisting local artists with the sourcing of buyers, materials and publicising their incredible artistic gifts by working closely with museums and development agencies.

Better known for his oil on canvas paintings, van Heerden recently decided to start making his mark on paper with coloured pencils. He admits to developing a predilection for the medium because of the fine control of the pencil, its precision, the ability to blend heavy and light lines, its potential for opulence and simplicity and how one can build up on colour to achieve a variety of marks and patterns. The drawings on exhibition illustrate the artist’s deliberate expressionistic style, the manipulation of the medium and his ability to capture the rugged beauty of the serrated rocks that wrap the landscape amid the uniquely African flora.

Msinga, who can forget the immense contrast of driving from the lush green fields and forests of colonial Greytown into the barren and rocky landscapes of the largely rural area located in the deep gorges of the Tugela and Buffalo Rivers in KwaZulu-Natal? This is the landscape that contain magnificent distorted rocks and land ravaged by drought, Yet, let there be a thunderstorm and within days, the colourful Nguni cows are fat again, the goats are abounding amongst the thorns and the local maidens and matrons are dressed up in their traditional finery to follow the dusty paths to attend celebrations and festivals and dances.

Msinga is a difficult place to live in, yet it is the ancestral place of people who feel that they were never conquered and will never be conquered. The Mchunu, Thembu, Bomvini and other tribes in the region who have their links to Msinga and those who were departed to other distant homes from the farms in the area and took their styles with them. Remember the fantastic earplugs worn by the Msinga people.

In Msinga, as in many other traditional homes, when things went well one spent money on adorning yourself, your loved one, or the one you were messaging with beautifully beaded love letters – indicating who you are, where you come from, your status, your skills and how up to date you were with the trend of the day. All this naturally executed according to the generally accepted rules of the community and the demands of the ancestors. Most importantly - be humble, show respect and keep order. This exhibition highlights the beauty and magic of the art from Msinga.

The gallery has underlined van Heerden’s pencil drawings with a simple bead panel which a traditional married woman wears on her cotton apron over her Isidwaba (leather apron). The exhibition illustrates how over time, patterns and colours changed as new materials or new master crafters arrived - for example, the Isishunka pattern being the earliest and most complicated to the Isinyolovane or the Isimodeni patterns.

Also on view area are a selection of artistic masterpieces such as beaded sculptures, beaded dolls, life-sized Msinga puppets in traditional regalia and a selection of extremely special aprons worn during the period of childbearing that follow different rules all together.

The exhibition draws on artefacts from the Phansi, the George and Liz Zaloumis, and the Jolles collections to support van Jannie van Heerden’s work.

Magical Msinga at Phansi goes Phezulu Gallery runs at Phansi Museum until June 10, 2017. Phansi Museum is situated at 500 Esther Roberts Road, Glenwood in Durban. Contact Sharon Crampton on 031 206 2889 or email or visit