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LADYSMITH MURAL (article first published : 2004-04-21)

The Museum Alley Community Art Project, which aims to beautify a thoroughfare used every day by hundreds of people in Ladysmith, is one of 23 projects supported by the Arts and Culture Trust (ACT), which receives funds from Trust founding partner Nedbank.

To date, the Trust has raised R12-million, with Nedbank having made a significant contribution to the more than R8-million disbursed by ACT since its inception in 1994. Money donated to ACT is dependent on turnover by Nedbank clients: the more Nedbank Arts clients use their Nedbank Arts affinity accounts, the more the Trust receives. In addition, Nedbank and fellow founding partner, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, each donated R500,000 to the June 2003 funding cycle of ACT. The Trust, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, will in the course of that cycle distribute a total of R1.2 million to projects in 12 disciplines: literature, music, theatre, film and video, heritage, multi-disciplinary, dance, craft, Fine Art, community/Fine Art, community and arts administration.

The Museum Alley Community Art Project takes the form of a mosaic mural designed by the eminent Ladysmith-born artist Lallitha Jawahirilal. The art work will be placed in the alley that runs between Ladysmith's Post Office and Museum, situated in the heart of the Ladysmith/Emnambithi Central Business District. Jawahirilal will assist in the execution of the mural, and during the process the techniques of mosaic will be taught to the selected participants.

The project's main aim is to turn what is currently merely a painted wall into an emblem of hope and cultural unity. A secondary aim is to give local artists and learners from schools in the area the opportunity to be involved in the creation of what could well become a tourist attraction. Already, the alley is situated next to a prime attraction of the town, the Ladysmith Museum, which houses the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Hall, with a vivid display on the world famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo group. Appropriately, there are exhibits devoted to other Ladysmith achievers such as Springbok athlete Veronica Abrahamse and Jawahirilal herself.

Director of the Emnambithi/Ladysmith Community Tourism Organisation, Fifi Meyer, believes that the project "will have a positive impact on the emerging art community in the area." She adds, "There are several emerging groups which are progressing against tremendous odds and the idea is to encourage them."

Already, the Ladysmith community-at-large is aware of the project. In mid-January, the Times of Ladysmith ran a piece on the Museum Alley mosaic, asking also for donations of materials such as tiles, mirrors, glass and metal. Aptly, the mural will contain the logo of the Arts and Culture Trust. Once it is complete, an unveiling function will be held, to which national and local media will be invited, as well as other guests and dignitaries. That sort of awareness is key to the project's long-term success, as well as acknowledging the funding from ACT.

Crucial to the mosaic is Jawahirilal's involvement. Studying in Britain, she gained a First Class BA Hons in Fine Art at the Camberwell School of Arts and then an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art, London. Numerous solo exhibitions and group exhibitions followed, here and abroad.

From 1994 to 2000 she lectured in Fine Art and History of Art at the University of Durban-Westville and undertook research in the important and neglected area of Public Art. Her two-part findings were published in The Role of Public Art in a Post-Apartheid Society with Special Reference to the Greater Ladysmith Area. It is the knowledge and insights from that research, as well as Jawahirilal's status as a product of Ladysmith, which will ensure the mural is an example of focused and pertinent Community Art.




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