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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MATERIAL MATTERS (article first published : 2000-07-23)

To run at the Durban Art Gallery from August 5 to September 15, Material Matters is a show of needlework which is accepted as one of South Africa’s most dynamic contemporary art forms. It focuses on appliqués by a group of women in the rural community of Weya in Zimbabwe and also provides fascinating examples of needlework from contemporary collectives in South Africa, such as Mapula and Simunye.

Needlework has provided poverty-stricken women with not only an income but a 'voice': Normally silent females have found in needlework a means of expressing their aspirations and anxieties. Appliquéd wall hangings made by the women of Weya include stories that focus on customs and norms in Shona communities and speak of how these affect women's lives. Far from being solemn, the stories are represented with humour and often dramatic irony. Likewise, South African works in fabric demonstrate not only the technical proficiency of the women who make them but also their imaginative and creative capacities.

Material Matters is the first exhibition to offer a retrospective examination of Weya appliqués and many of the works are drawn from private collections and have never previously been exhibited. It includes extensive information about the history of needlework groups and the subject matter of individual works not only in the form of written commentaries but also photographs and video footage. Accompanied by a catalogue with contributions by both experienced researchers and people with an immediate involvement in needlework projects, Material Matters provides important new insights about the creativity of black women in Southern Africa.




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