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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
The South African Traditional Arts Collection


The South African Traditional Arts Collection grows out of a project of the South African National Cultural Heritage Training and Technology Program (SANCH) with grant support from the Andrew J. Mellon Fund and Ford Foundation. Led by Drs. Marsha MacDowell and Dr. C. Kurt Dewhurst, Michigan State University Museum, and Dr. Diana N'Diaye, Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the project is working with South African colleagues to document South Africa's extraordinarily rich, diverse craft activity at the turn of the twenty-first century.

To date the collection consists of a number of items representative of distinctive regional, occupational, and ethnic traditions; items created by members of craft cooperatives; items that demonstrate the interface of new and older technologies, materials, and marketplaces; and the work of artists honored by one of South Africa's most prestigious awards, the VITA Craft Award. Included are examples of wirework, quilts, prints, embroidered and beaded textiles, beadwork, clothing, and sculpture, including work by VITA awardees such as Julius Mfethe.

Two portfolio of prints augment the traditional arts collection by showing the connections of themes, materials, and processes between "traditional" and "fine" arts in this country. The first, "International Print Portfolio: Universal Declaration of Human Rights," is a portfolio of graphic prints by artists from countries identified by Amnesty International in which human rights awareness is either non-existent or severely abridged. The second portfolio, "Images of Human Rights," includes 29 fine art prints, created by artists representing the nine provinces of South Africa and hand printed by master printmaker Jan Jordaan. The portfolio was released in 1996 in commemoration of the newly post-Apartheid nation's Bill of Rights. Funds generated from the sale of portfolios are deposited in the Artists for Human Rights Trust account and are used by Amnesty International and other organizations for human rights education programs for the young people of South Africa.

John Beck, Yvonne Lockwood, Marsha MacDowell, C. Kurt Dewhurst, Diana N'Diaye.

"Images of Human Rights: South African Prints," Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, Michigan, February, 1998; Seattle Central Community College, Seattle, Washington, January 4 - 21, 2000; Fort Miami Heritage Society, St. Joseph, Michigan, May - September, 2002; Rankin Center Art Gallery, Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan, January, 2003.

"African Connections: Perspectives on Collecting Culture," Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, Jan 31, 1999 - Sept. 5, 1999.

Karen Lotter, ed. International Print Portfolio: Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Durban, South Africa: Artists for Human Rights Trust, 1999.

[NOTE: For more information on the South African National Cultural Heritage Project, see http://www.saculturalheritage.org/]

--compiled by Marsha MacDowell, 2004.

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