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Tuesday, July 16, 2019


(Left: Penguin Kisses: Thuli Mkhize:  Salesperson, AAC with two wooden birds from a new range of hand-crafted wooden animals available at the AAC. Pic by Illa Thompson)

Two Durban cultural icons at one address!

The African Art Centre – which celebrates 60 years of supporting KZN artists – has moved into the beautiful Roberts House in Glenwood, home to the incredible Phansi Museum.

The African Art Centre (AAC) has moved into a spacious room in Roberts House where its coveted range of wood décor items, sculptures, bead work, accessories, jewellery, paintings, arts and crafts are for sale. 

The idea is also for the AAC to curate regular exhibitions which will be held in Roberts House utility room – currently used for meetings, film screenings, workshops and projects, all of which will continue.

(Right: Anthea Martin: Curator: “Resilience” pictured with one of the exhibition works, “I Live to Consume” by Kenneth Shandu. Pic by Illa Thompson)

Almost before the paint is dry on the new shop walls, an exhibition is being planned, appropriately entitled Resilience which will be curated by former AAC director and respected authority on African art, Anthea Martin. The title talks to the process of adapting in the face of adversity, tragedy or stress.

A joint exhibition opening and celebration of six active decades is being planned for Saturday morning, July 20, 2019, at 11h30.

To be opened by Ursula de Haas: Chairperson, African Art Centre and Paul Mikula: Managing Trustee, Phansi Museum, the group exhibition will showcase the enormous talent of many of the visual artists affiliated to the ACC – both experienced, named artists and rising stars. Among the artists whose work will be on display are Sfiso ka Mkame, Zamani Makhanya, Malibongwe Shangase, Sibusiso Duma, Major Ndlovu, Jabulani Cele and Kenneth Shandu.

 (Left: Ursula de Haas: Chairperson of the African Art Centre (AAC) Board. Pic by Illa Thompson)

For the past 60 years, the AAC has provided thousands of unemployed artists and craftspeople with opportunities of self-employment, economic upliftment and the ability to begin to earn a sustainable living from their work. The centre is known for its quality hand crafted products.

Typically, the AAC is more than a retail outlet – it is a creative hub for art-makers and crafters, many of whom spend time on site. On Fridays, visitors can watch artists at work on their beading, jewellery-making and woodwork.

The joining of these two remarkable veteran organisations makes Roberts House an even more attractive, bustling and in-demand destination than before – most especially for visitors, tourists, cultural outings and educational institutions. In challenging financial times, combining resources and spaces makes sensible economic sense too.

This perfect marriage offers a retail component to complement Phansi, enabling visitors after having seen the remarkable collection of artefacts, effectively to buy contemporary versions of the pieces on display. Visitors can now see the old and the new side by side.

The Phansi Museum is housed in the beautiful late 19th Century gracious Durban home – a national monument and one-time home to the Roberts family. The daughter, Esther, was born there. A friend of collector Killie Campbell, Esther was one of the first woman social anthropologists, and was a tireless member of the Black Sash. Esther Roberts Road has been named in her honour.  The Phansi Museum, a non-profit, features an astonishing collection of Southern African artefacts, gathered by Paul Mikula: earplugs, beer-pots, statues, beadwork, sculptures, pipes, basketwork, walking sticks, ornate headrests, wirework and fertility dolls.

Phansi Museum is situated at 500 Esther Roberts Road, Glenwood, in Durban. Contact 031 206 2889 or email or visit