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NSA CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS (article first published : 2005-07-10)

On July 12 at 18h00, the newly-named KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts presents its official centenary celebrations of the organisation.

The Natal Society of Artists was formed in 1905 by Cathcart William Methven (1849-1925) and Leo Francois (1870–1938). The first exhibition of the society was held in London Chambers in West Street and was opened by Mayor Charlie Henwood in 1905. A highlight on the calendar year was the Annual Winter Exhibition, which was held by tradition on the night before the famous July Handicap - at the time, a major occasion on the Durban social calendar.

On the eve of the 30th anniversary in 1935 the first woman, Miss Edith Ward, was elected as President and the society was congratulated on its ‘modernity’. In 1963 the name of the society was changed to the Natal Society of Arts, to broaden the membership base and include all people interested in cultural events.

Until 1965, the Society organised exhibitions at the Durban Art Gallery but another milestone was reached in this year when the current president, Sylvia Kaplan, motivated for the organisation to find premises or a gallery. The organisation then moved into the first of many rented premises, and the first gallery opened in Hermitage Street. In 1973 the NSA moved to new premises in the hub of Durban, at 320 West Street. Here, under the leadership of Hannah Lurie, the NSA become more than just an exhibition area, and it heralded the beginning of the gallery’s gift and craft shop, which in turn became the financial engine–room of the NSA.

In 1982 the gallery moved to bigger premises with double the exhibition space in Overport City. The new gallery was opened by the Mayor of Durban, Sybil Hotz, with Marianne Meijer officiating as NSA president.

During the 1980’s, the organisation started lobbying for a permanent home for the organisation and, finally, under the presidency of Mike McMeekan, the organisation found its own home with negotiating use of Bulwer Park for the building of the new gallery.

An international building competition for the premises in Bulwer Road was thrown open to all past students from the Department of Architecture of Natal University. The design was won by the firm Walters and Cohen from London. On May 12, 1996, the new NSA was officially opened by Dr. Ben Ngubane, then South African Minister of Arts, Culture and Technology.

Since this time the organisation has grown in complexity and stature, It comprises five departments: the Gallery, Shop, Training Arts Programme, Durban Centre of Photography and the Arts Café. The building has become a landmark and is not only a popular hang-out but also a venue known for hosting significant cultural events. To date, the organisation is the oldest and longest surviving arts organisation in the country.

To mark this auspicious occasion the NSA will see a name change, as well as the introduction of a new corporate identity. On July 12, 2005, the NSA will officially be named the KwaZulu Natal Society of Arts (KZNSA).

The exhibitions to be opened on that evening will be Being Here, Artists’ Spaces and From the Archives (see separate articles).

More information from Trevor Moore or Storm Janse van Rensburg on 031 202 3686, fax 031 201 8051, e-mail: admin@nsagallery.co.za or curator@nsagallery.co.za or visit www.nsagallery.co.za




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