A fairy-tale in the making
One of the products you will be able to see and buy in our WOWZULU Marketplaces are lovingly created beaded animals. These exquisitely crafted art pieces are made by husband-and-wife team Caesar Mkhize and Thafa Dlamini. They live in a humble dwelling in KwaMashu, but the fruits of their labour adorn palaces, high courts and international exhibition halls.
The story of Caesar and Thafa is a remarkable one, almost a fairy tale. A story that should be constantly retold, to inspire, motivate and ignite our own potential. Let our guides take you to their home where these interesting pieces are created so you can discover their tale.
The seeds of this story were sown in the early 1980s when the Durban-born Caesar Mkhize, who is now 45, met his future artistic collaborator and wife, Thafa Dlamini, in KwaMashu. Caesar had inherited the artistic talents of his guitar-playing father and the sewing skills of his mother who made and sold clothes for a living.
In 1994 Caesar became a student at the Velobala Art Programme run by the African Art Centre. For 4 years he worked at refining his craft, working on design and form of wire animals and birds. The break-through came while he was attending a doll-making workshop at the Durban Art Gallery. Working at home in the evening he left a packet of beads on the table. Thafa, who is eight years younger than her husband, used the beads to make a bracelet and the innovative design impressed Caesar. He asked his wife to decorate a wire bird he had just created and was delighted with outcome. This beaded pattern covering a wire sculpture of a bird launched a highly successful collaboration. Their combination of glass beads on sculptural forms, some as tall as half a metre, are unique representations of culture and nature.
Their innovative designs and colourful works of art are now internationally recognised. Together they have won awards, including the prestigious SA Crafts Council Award, and their work can be found displayed at Buckingham Palace, in the Constitutional Court and at many public and private collections and exhibitions. Their inspiration comes from the natural world and their art pieces include elephants, cows, frogs, chameleons and grasshoppers.
Caesar and Thafa move with the times, adapting their designs and patterns to meet market trends and absorbing influences from their changing world. “We get inspired by the world around us,” they say. “We go to museums and watch programs like National Geographic to try and understand the behaviour of the various animals.”
Thafa says that they attempt to use colours not normally used in other forms of beadwork. “We try and use colours which rather depict the nature of the animal. And so we will use more red for those animals that eat meat and more green for animals that eat grass.”
Their dedication and hard work shows in their home. Before they found success they lived in the standard small, dark two-roomed house common to the area. Their success has enabled them to afford a home where they can live and work, design and inspire, create and sell their beautiful products. Yet they stay close to their roots, bringing prosperity to their community.
Amangwevu – an exhibition of their wire-armature beaded creatures – is currently running at Artisan Contemporary Gallery. Also included in the exhibition at Artisan will be some oil on canvas paintings of the beaded animals by Megan Anderson. Amangwevu runs until October 16 at Artisan Contemporary Gallery, 344 Florida Road, Durban. More information on 031 312 4364 or visit www.artspace-durban.com