Into the Light is a selection of work from the Gallery's permanent collection by women artists of KwaZulu-Natal. The works are largely from the first sixty-odd years of the Twentieth century.
We have included work by white women artists in the western tradition and work by black women artists in the traditional Zulu tradition.
In the past, works by these two groups would seldom, if ever, have been exhibited together. The work of the white women would have been considered "art", that of the black women, "craft".
Most of the white women represented here had some formal training in the visual arts. The black women would most likely have gained their skills from mothers and mothers-in-law. The white women would have worked with a viewing audience in mind. The black women would have worked to make utilitarian objects for domestic use or for traditional costumes.
Some of the white women artists had an interest in depicting "native" subjects, something the Natal Society of Artists tried to promote in the earlier years of the Twentieth century. In its annual exhibitions there was a special "Native studies" category with a prize sponsored by the businessman, Karl Gundelfinger.
Most of the white artists lived and worked in urban areas. Some of them undertook painting trips in rural areas. It is very likely that all the black artists lived and worked in rural areas.
There is quite a lot of information about the white artists but very little about the black artists. All the white artists are named; many of the black artists are not. This small exhibition shows that a lot more research needs to be done in order to correct the imbalance.
It is very seldom that space and time allow for indulgence of this kind: a display of works by women artists of KwaZulu-Natal which hardly ever see the light. Reasons for this vary: works on paper are very susceptible to fading when exposed for any length to strong light; it is often only major works which interest students and learners; space constraints make it impossible to display more than a fraction of the collection.
This selection shows work by women, black and white, who worked in the province during the early and middle years of the twentieth century. It features some well-known names: Allerly Glossop, Jane Heath, and Perla Siedle-Gibson, perhaps better known as the "Lady in White" who sang to troops as they entered or departed Durban Harbour during the Second World War. Others are not as well-known: Constance Greaves, Mary Elizabeth Butler and Edith Currie.
The work of black women artists such as Mamgoma Ndlovu, Malizipho Dlamini and Ulaline Langa has only ever been acknowledged as "part of the traditional Zulu beadwork collection". All these women deserve more attention than they have received to date, so come in and see the light!
Into the Light: works by KwaZulu-Natal women artists
Thursday 22 January to Sunday 1 March 2009