Art exhibit pays tribute to Msinga's magic

30 May 2017 - 17:31 By Shubnum Khan
A work typical of Jannie van Heerden's expressionistic style.
A work typical of Jannie van Heerden's expressionistic style.
Image: Supplied

Jannie van Heerden has a new collection at the little Phansi museum in Glenwood, Durban.

The exhibition, Magical Msinga, is a visual exploration of the often-overlooked deep gorges of the Tugela and Buffalo Rivers in KwaZulu-Natal.

Most recognised for working in oils, Van Heerden uses coloured pencil to capture the layered landscape of this arid interior.

Having worked with local artists in Msinga, Van Heerden says the area has, for many years, been his source of inspiration because of the unspoilt and primordial character of the landscape and the traditionalism and colourful attire of the people.

His landscapes contain strong shapes distorted and ravaged by drought and overgrazing.

"The trees and plants become a metaphor for life," he says.

The coloured pencil conveys the life in the desolate surroundings by highlighting the beauty of trees, boulders and the sky. With his ability to blend heavy and light lines, he captures a sense of this place and the love he has for it. The drawings illustrate the artist's deliberate expressionistic style, the manipulation of the medium, and his ability to depict the rugged beauty of the rocks and boulders of the landscape amid the uniquely African flora.

The art works are complemented with beadwork by the Msinga people, which are an exhibition of their own. These pieces, divided into different sections, show mathematical skill as the beaded work is precise and technical.

The exhibition also hosts two life-size puppets displaying the traditional dress of the Msinga people, and small dolls that are covered in Msinga beaded accessories.

Thus, the entire exhibition becomes a tribute to the magic of the Msinga, a space in which to immerse oneself, a special space in South Africa.

Magical Msinga is a reminder of the diversity of not only our country's landscape, but also our people. It shouldn't be missed.

• 'Magical Msinga' at Phansi Museum runs until June 30.

• This article was originally published in The Times.