Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Child Doll Show at the Johannesburg Art Gallery

This weekend my husband and I visited the Johannesburg Art Gallery. The Gallery is located in downtown Johannesburg, an area I have never visited until now.  Downtown streets and sidewalks in the area are packed with sidewalk vendors, taxi stands and people making it quite hard to drive down the road.  It is a contrast to the areas of South Africa I usually visit and I got to see why this country is called overcrowded.  The Gallery is located in Jobert Park.  As my husband and I strolled through the park to the museum we passed crowds of  people picnicing and lounging in the grass watching Manchester verses Liverpool on a large flat screen TV.  
In the gallery, the exibits were interesting but surprisingly few items were on display. The website says that the Gallery has only 10% of its collected works on display and I wonder, with all of the empty space why more of their inventory was not on show.  I enjoyed looking at the exhibit on the first two black South African women to have their own shows, one in the 1940's and the other in the 1960's.  The Dutch master paintings and prints were interesting as well.  The exhibit that intriqued me the most, however, since I am a doll maker, was Play, Ritual and Inspiration: the Phansi Museum Collection of Southern African Child Figures. (The Phansi Museum is a Southern African crafts museum in Durban.) 
The picture above is reprentative of some of the Southern African 'Child' dolls.  She is from the Ndebele tribe, created in the early 1900's, made of glass beads, sinew, wood.  This photo was found on the Jacaranda Tribal blog, an African fine arts dealer.
Child dolls are found in many styles from the various tribes through out Southern Africa.  The dolls were created by women.  In some tribes the dolls were given to a man the woman was interested in as a part of courtship.  A man might keep several dolls until he made his decision of which woman to marry.  In other tribes girls were given the dolls to care for until she had a child of her own.  Dolls were also used in fertility rituals.  A terrific selection of dolls of the various tribes with photographs of girls and women in traditional dress can be found Gallery Ezakwantu.

Dolls today:  The child doll is no longer used in the tradional ways, the styles of doll seen in the Gallery Ezakwantu links created today are largely sold to the tourist market.  If you are interested in ways dolls are used today there is a great doll project called the Uthando Project.  The project aims to assist with healing of children who have lost one or both parents from AIDS.  The website has a free pattern that you can use to make dolls to donate.

1 comment:

Mary Ann said...

Hello...I'm visiting from Doll Street. Thank you for posting about such an ineresting topic:)