The magnificent Graskop Gorge played host to the recent Beautiful Things 2022 exhibition, and out of the more than 1 000 submissions received, 90 crafters were hand-picked to represent South Africa’s vibrant craft sector.

The craftsmen hailed from all nine provinces, representing South African art in all its diverse splendour. Presented by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the Graskop Gorge Lift Company, the exhibition was curated by John-Anthony Boerma of Art Aid and co-curated by Mandla Hlophe of Malengs Holdings. Categories included ceramics, beadwork, wirework, wood,  jewellery, paper, fabric painting and printing, quilting, leatherwork, pewter, glasswork, embroidery and mixed media.

“Having the privilege of curating the Beautiful Things 2022 craft exhibition has once again brought home to me the immense importance of in the world,” John-Anthony says. “Art is one of the most magnificent and valuable things we can create. It is so much more than simply something attractive or interesting to look at – it also represents, or at least seeks
to represent, the essence of the human spirit.”

Inspired and energised by the works on exhibit, the audience left with their horizons  expanded and their notions of craft revisited. “It was amazing to see these 90 creatives
take a leap of faith into a future filled with new possibilities,” he continues. “It struck me anew that these artisans from all over South Africa truly represent the zeitgeist of our country and its people – we are a restless nation of movement and evolving ideas while drawing our strength and identity from our roots.”

John-Anthony Boerma

Discovering new talent and uncovering existing talent that has been hidden for years has been an exciting process, especially when you take into account the importance of celebrating and showcasing our local artists. “Some of these crafters’ works may appear to be the product of new ideas, but they are actually fresh variations on pre-existing themes,
reinvented for contemporary markets and tastes. They are a creative dialogue with the past that has given rise to new forms of expression. This is what excites me – the dynamic process of both working with tradition and against its grain, that gives rise to exceptional handmade crafts that can take pride of place in any home, establishment or, in many cases, gallery.”

Vusumuzi Mkhize, the sport, arts and culture director-general, commented on how happy he was that Beautiful Things 2022 would not only provide work and exposure to the 90 craft producers whose works are being exhibited, but would also give direct employment opportunities to at least 65 more people, including curators, performers, security personnel, caterers and delivery services, as well as those offering marketing, publicity and technical support to the event. The exhibition comprised both a physical and a virtual component to reach as many people as possible. “It is our sincere hope that this will kick-start a ripple effect,” Vusumuzi says. “It’s all part of making the necessary interventions to revive and reinvigorate our creative industries after two years of difficulty sparked by the pandemic. We look forward to welcoming South Africans to this curated showcase of truly beautiful things by these supremely talented and resilient craft artists.”

The bottom line, John-Anthony explains, is that craft can – and does – put food on the table of hundreds of thousands of South Africans. You can make a career out of being a crafter. “The good news is that more and more young people are becoming interested in craftwork and design – it’s no longer seen as something for the older generations. And, they are adding a creative spin to their designs, blending traditional skills with innovative elements.”

This is how we will gain insight into our country’s essence, through the hands, creativity and minds of these gifted rural and urban craftspeople. “You’ll see just how important a role they play in bringing to life the enchantment of our country through their designs, textures and forms. It is also apparent how we are all intricately connected through the fabric of our multidimensional country, and how we – ourselves, our artists, our economy – are designed for interdependence. We all have different gifts that complement each other to make up a vibrant whole.

Details
John-Anthony Boerma on 071 383 3035

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