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AFRICAN TRADITIONS WIN (article first published : 2004-11-6)

Interpreting the theme of Communicating and Connecting by using traditional African beliefs and practices, dominates the winning entries in the 2004 Unilever International School Arts Project.

Three of the top four winning entries came from the same school on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.

Nontsikelelo Gumede (11), whose work was adjudged first in the Grade I to VII category, is a grade five pupil at the Gobhela Primary School near Hibberdene. For her artistic effort, she, will jet off to London on an all-expenses paid trip.

Her sculpture of grass, plastic, wood and cane entitled The Proposal of a Girl is drawn from her visual experiences of growing up in a rural area. She has attempted to describe a budding romance where a young Zulu maiden goes to a mountain stream to fetch water. A young Zulu man sees her and attempts to woo her. She is so shy and traditionally respectful, that she does not look directly at him when he speaks to her.

“According to Zulu tradition,” says Nontsikelelo, “to display good manners when you are young and somebody older is speaking, you do not stare into the eyes of the adult. I have tried to capture this age-old mannerism in my sculpture. I am thrilled that I have won and will be going overseas for the first time.”

Nontsikelelo’s art teacher Samuel Ntshangase described her as “highly talented and most creative”. “Nontsikelelo has made our school proud. We submitted 49 entries out of which three have been winners. This school sure has gifted pupils.” Mr Ntshangase has himself tasted success in an international art competition when his work was displayed in Copenhagen. In 1996, he entered a competition entitled Art Across the Oceans. His entry which was a hut made from eight different types of grass with a carpet of dried yellow mielies, was highly acclaimed by Princess Margaret of Denmark.

Joining Nontsikelelo on the overseas trip will be first prize winner in the Grade VIII to XII category, Siyabonga Hlongwa, a grade 12 pupil at Pinetown Boys High School. His self portrait in acrylic paint and black pen captures a hooded figure with hands cupped, as if begging. His art teacher Mrs Julie Roberts said: “This boy lives, eats and sleeps for his art. He is well-known around the school because he is always carrying his big artworks around with him. Siyabonga is highly talented as an artist and is also a member of the school choir. He is well-mannered, hard working and very dedicated to art and has recently started making a bit of pocket money by doing portraits for people.” She said the pupil lived with his grandmother who has always had faith in his artistic abilities and she would be accompanying him to London.

The two first prize winners will enjoy the privilege of having their works exhibited at the prestigious Tate Modern Gallery in London, together with the submissions of other first prize winners from several other countries who participated in the Unilever International Arts Project, courtesy of the Unilever Foundation.

Zinhle Nkosi, Unilever Foundation co-coordinator of the South African chapter of the international arts competition, said hundreds of entries of an exceptionally high standard had been received locally. “The judges did not have an easy task because of the high calibre of entries. It is most encouraging to note that the creativity of our youth is being harnessed and nurtured by dedicated art teachers at our schools. Unilever is committed to the development of young people and we are proud of all the entries we received. We are pleased that these artists will have the opportunity to exhibit at one of the world’s leading art galleries and we are sure that this experience will inspire the young artists.”

She added that the 2004 Unilever International School Arts Project coincided with the launch in August of Unilever’s new mission, which is encapsulated in one word, Vitality. “The Unilever School Art Competition builds on healthy young learners to get more out of life,” she said.

The winners will attend the opening ceremony of the exhibition in London on January 19, 2005, as well as the prize-giving function. They will also be treated to a full itinerary that includes sightseeing and coach tours.

Runner-up Chiya Kwazi, a grade seven pupil also from Gobhela Primary School, won R5,000 for his representation of an African witchdoctor throwing the bones to urge the ancestors to help determine the cause of death of an individual.

Ntanza Mbali, a grade five pupil also from Gobhela Primary School, used grass, wire, cane , clay, sand and live fish to bring to life the Biblical episode where Jesus Christ tells those who believe in Him that they will receive God’s bounty. He won a merit prize of R1,000.

More information from Yasantha Naidoo at Simeka TWS Communications on 031 203 9800 or 082 338 3292.




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