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Ahead of her time - Maria Stein-Lessing

THERE HAS NEVER BEEN anyone in the art world like Maria Stein-Lessing. She positioned herself as a crusader of African artefacts in the 1940s, and was a character so formidable and of such vast eccentricities that her human portrait evoked as much interest as her arts.

maria stein lessingShe was at once loved, feared, and loathed. Love or hate her, nobody marginalised her influence on cultural aesthetics until her untimely death in 1961. The resurrection of her memory almost 50 years later came about through a bequest by her late husband, Leopold Spiegel, to Museum Africa in order to honour her contribution to African art and culture, and a viewing of her collection.

Additionally, he left instructions for a memoir and record of Stein-Lessing's collection be edited by collector and art historian, Natalie Knight.

With this celebratory revival, deep and enduring memories keep flooding in from her students, now art luminaries throughout the world. Esme Herman, Cecil Skotnes, Judith Mason, Elizabeth Rankin, and Professor Eric Fernie. The latter went on to become director of the famed Courtauld Art Institute, recalls: "It wasn't the idiosyncrasies, the chain smoking, the dog tethered during lectures. What I remember is her intensity. I knew nothing about medieval cathedrals, but when Dr Stein-Lessing had given us a lecture on them, it just seemed as if they were the most fascinating things in the world."


Written In Skirts

Johannesburg was already a tough city back in the 1980s when artist Billy Makhubele was stabbed. At the time, he was triumphant in his success as the first SA artist to create wire-art bicycles. He could barely keep pace with the demand.

Billy MakhubeleHis range of wire sculptures, bicycles, penny-farthings and cars had been exhibited at the Market Art Gallery, before Makhubele represented SA at the Valparaiso Biennale in Chile in 1985.

Twisting wire was difficult with a painful wrist, but Makhubele persevered for another five years. Eventually he decided to return to the Giyani area of Limpopo to reconnect with his Shangaan heritage. He began collecting rare beaded and carved items. He also sought the assistance of his two wives and seven daughters to create beaded artworks using newspaper headlines for inspiration.


Billy Makhubele stirs waters…

Johannesburg was already a tough city way back in the 80’s when artist Billy Makhuble was robbed and stabbed.

At the time of the unfortunate event, Makhubele was triumphant from his success as the first South African artist to create wire art bicycles. He could barely keep pace with the demand.  His range of wire sculptures, bicycles, penny-farthings, and cars, had exhibited at the Market Art Gallery, before Makhubele represented South Africa at the Valparais Biennale in Chili in ’85.

Twisting wire was difficult with a woefully painful wrist, although Makhubele persevered for another five years.

The ever-optimistic artist viewed his stabbing as a tragic but not fatal end to his flourishing artistic career.

One morning the consummate Makhubele decided to return to Giyani area of the Limpopo Province to reconnect with his proud Shangaan heritage. 

He began collecting rare beaded and carved items.


Art Exhibition - Mandel at 90

An art exhibition initiated by Justice Albie Sachs commemorating Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday is at Johannesburg’s Constitutional Court

The celebratory work pays tribute to arguably the greatest Statesman in the world; a man recognized as a prophet in his own country.

Curator Natalie Knight said the venue is iRonic. Nelson Mandela, imprisoned in Cell Number 4 adjoining the Court for 2 weeks in December 1956, awaited his famed Treason trial: And the 11 Constitutional Court judges have all been part of the apartheid resistance movement in one way or another.

This is the first time that an exhibition has been mounted in the foyer of the Court, proving to be a very challenging space. The main wall consists of a series of curves not usually conducive to the display of art works.  The result, a Technicolor pageant of Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” with works created by husband and wife team Billy and Jane Makhubele, begins with the story of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, and using safety pins and beads the artists trace the rise of Umkonte Wesizwe, the fight for Democracy, Mandela casting his first vote, his marriage to Graca Machel and other highlights of his personal and political life.

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