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THE MAYS REVITALISE MUSEUM (article first published : 2000-12-8)

Andy has been drawing military uniforms and researching subjects of edged weapons, firearms, equipment, artillery, armoured vehicles and warships for about 40 years. What was a serious hobby became a full-time occupation in 1975, interspersed with freelance carpentry and crewing on four feature films, Zulu Dawn, Jungle Paradise, Shaka Zulu and The Wreckers.

He has received numerous commissions to produce sets of drawings of uniforms for military societies, museums, journals and publications – one of which was the programme for Durban’s first Military Tattoo in 1979. In 1982 and 1983, he was commissioned to design two sets of stamps depicting various regiments.

An artist with works on display in private and public collections all over the world, Andy has a meticulous approach to his work. “If a uniform has 22 buttons, he’ll draw in 22 buttons!” says his wife Ingrid, who is also an artist

Growing up in Beira, Mozambique, Ingrid May did some of her art training at L’Ecole des Arts et Metiers in Switzerland. She has lectured at Technikon Natal and ML Sultan Technikon and has worked as a display artist, interior decorator and paint and décor consultant. She was commissioned by the KwaZulu Monuments Council to paint background scenery for the exhibits at Ulundi Museum.

Every year, the NMR calls up Andy May to man the regiment’s stand at the Royal Show in Pietermaritzburg. However, this year, instead of going back home to Port Edward where he currently lives, he was invited to re-instate the NMR museum and its collection which had fallen into disrepair. The museum is situated in the regiment’s headquarters, which used to be Durban’s airport close to the Durban Country Club.

Andy suggested that Ingrid be involved to produce murals to offset the displays and thus the talented pair set about the fairly daunting task of sorting through the impressive collection and creating different scenarios.

Using ordinary acrylic house paint, Ingrid has painted evocative backdrops to the seven new cabinets which house displays carefully selected by Andy. These include uniforms and weapons as well as items such as maps, field glasses, water bottles and sandbags. The four in the Warrant Officers’ and NCOs’ mess depict Second World War battlefronts: Abyssinnia, Egypt and Italy as well as the regiment’s internal security of peace-keeping in the local townships. A fifth is set aside for the regimental silver. The three cabinets in the officer’s mess and ante-room represent the Zulu War in Inyezane, the Siege of Ladysmith and the Bambata Rebellion. Other cabinets display swords and weapons.

Andy has produced several sets of uniform cards for collectors and these are available at the NMR office. He is also available for commission work. Contact him on 072 140-0022.

Offering a fascinating and accurate visual record of the Natal Mounted Rifles’ history, the museum is soon to be open to the public with viewing by appointment. The NMR will host a Tattoo on March 23 in the regiment headquarter’s car park. Contact (031) 369-1824 for details.




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