Basket exhibition kicks off Waterfront’s festive season

Bonakele Mlawu and Nora Sibiya show off their basket-weaving skills at the 100 Beautiful Baskets Exhibition launch on Thursday November 25.

The Waterfront’s festive celebration kicked off with the opening of the 100 Beautiful Baskets exhibition on Thursday November 25 the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre.

The exhibition, a celebration of the art of African basketry, forms part of the V&A Waterfront’s overarching Joy from Africa to the World project, based on a vision that kicked off two years ago to re-imagine a festive season that celebrates the creativity of the African continent while honouring its commitment to environmental sustainability.

The exhibition showcases basket-weaving traditions and woven vessels, furniture and jewellery from different communities stretching from KwaZulu-Natal to Ghana to Zambia and Uganda.

Goodness Ndimande shows off her weaving skills. She works for Design Afrika.

Each basket was crafted by hand, by master weavers – mostly women – across the African continent.

Tinyiko Mageza, the executive marketing manager at the V&A Waterfornt, said since 2019, the team has set out to infuse the festive season with purpose and meaning.

“We didn’t want to do away with the celebration, but rather, we wanted to do it in a way that showcases authentic African stories, shines a spotlight on the creativity of the people of this country and continent and celebrates our heritage.

Basket showcased at the exhibition.

“We wanted to inspire locals and the rest of the world by sharing the story of a joyful Africa – it is our story, told our way.”

She said the idea was born from the question: “How can we use the Waterfront to shine a platform of local creativity?”

“When people come to Africa, they look for authenticity… giving us a chance to re-explore our creativity and our culture.”

Baskets displayed at the exhibition.

She said the installations challenge the traditional approach to the end-of-year celebration, and celebrates local design and sustainability that gives a warm African welcome to visitors to the V&A Waterfront.

Creative director of Platform Creative, Cathy O’Clery, and the head of communications at the Waterfront, Donald Kau.

The project was curated by multimedia agency Platform Creative. Cathy O’Clery, the creative director, said the African continent was rich with basket-weaving traditions, and the Waterfront chose to shine a spotlight on this high-skilled art.

“This year with baskets and community totems, we wanted to work with something that everyone understood.

“There’s a human story behind every basket, and these baskets have stories of social history, refugees and displacement, among other stories.”

She said while basket making is such a skilled art, it was dying and it was important for people from Africa to keep it alive.“

Design Afrika, a Woodstock-based company specialising in basket-weaving, will be running the exhibition shop as one of the partners.

Binky Newman, founder of Design Afrika in Woodstock

Founder of Design Afrika, Binky Newman, said she came on board after working with Ms O’Clery a few years ago.

Ms O’Clery had the idea to do the exhibition back then, said Ms Newman, but the timing wasn’t right.

“Three years ago, she asked me to partner with the project, and here we are.

“This has done so much for basketry in South Africa – I don’t think we’ve had an exhibition on basketry on this scale.”

She said the exhibition was “breath-taking” and was hoping it would travel the country or the continent at some stage.

As part of this project, eight totems, called the Travelling Totems, were created by local communities from around the country and are on display around the Waterfront in honour of the festive spirit.

One of the totems, named Umoya Wasekasi, which is isiXhosa for “spirit of the township”, is the story of African beading company Monkeybiz in Khayelitsha.

One of the artists, Noloyiso Maphakathi, said the beaded dolls represent women’s empowerment – one of the core missions of Monkeybiz.

This totem, along with the other seven, can be seen around the V&A Waterfront’s Victoria Mall for the duration of the festive season.

Other key installations include a summer palace for children to wander through, colourful hanging baskets in the open-air atriums, golden swallows made from recycled metal, and a giant Christmas tree.

The 100 Beautiful Baskets exhibition is open daily from 10am to 7pm at the Old Nu Metro Cinema complex on Level 1 in the Victoria Wharf Shopping Mall. Entry is free.

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