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Edendale Excels - a celebration of four artists from Edendale

7 February to 22 June 2008
A similar exhibition was held at Georgetown Library, Edendale, from 7 to 29 February 2008.

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Edendale Excels ArtistsEdendale Excels, an exhibition to celebrate four artists from Edendale, near Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, shows some changes and developments in South African art. A diversity of themes that range from everyday life scenes to symbolism and expressive works are portrayed by four different artists who lived or worked in the same area at different times during the past century. The Neglected Tradition (Johannesburg, 1988), an exhibition dedicated to works by black artists, included the three older artists.

The Artists

Gerard Bhengu, the eldest amongst the Edendale group, represents the beginnings of black art that developed into mainstream art and art appreciation. His watercolour or ink paintings and drawings were initially made as illustrations for ethnographic and sociological recordings. These illustrated the differences in cultural practices between certain Nguni language groups found in Kwazulu-Natal. Bhengu studied at the Edendale Vocational College (later called Technical High School) during the thirties. His talents were later recognized and used for private and public commissions.

Michael Zondi carved wooden sculptures using images of his family members to illustrate socio-political conditions in South Africa. Like many of his peers, he often used religious and secular themes to illustrate the effects of Apartheid on South African communities. He taught at the Edendale Technical High School during the late fifties. His friendship with Dr. Wolfgang Bodenstein from Applesbosch near New Hanover and travels in South Africa and abroad influenced his techniques and themes.

Chickenman Mkhize was an eccentric artist and performer in the centre of Pietermaritzburg. He used found materials to create road signs, puppets and animals on wheels. Chickenman made his art to support his family in Willowfountain, Edendale. In the process of scrounging from waste materials, he was recycling old and discarded objects, giving them new meaning and life.

Siyabonga Sikosana, the youngest of them all, and the only living artist, shows how Township Art continues to tackle socio-political themes using humour. He follows the trend started by pioneer artists like Bhengu, but has introduced new techniques and approaches to art. He uses his background of Willowfountain as a symbol of post-Apartheid South African township life, where the residents received little of the promises made to them since the 1994 election campaigns.

This introduction is an attempt at making learners aware of the diversity of issues tackled by these artists. The inclusion of Bhengu and Zondi in the academic syllabus demonstrates the value of their contribution to the changing South African Visual Arts Studies.

Artists on the Edendale Excels exhibition

Map of KwaZulu-Natal

Edendale Excels Artists