The Art Programme funded by the MTN SA Foundation is one of iSimangaliso’s development projects. The Art Programme aims to support artists through skills development and linkages with museums, galleries and other outlets for art promotion and sales. The artists participate in a series of technical workshops and also build capacities in the business of art.

  • 29 June 2010 - 25 July 2010

Because of its biodiversity, outstanding ecological processes and its superlative natural phenomena and beauty, iSimangaliso Wetland Park was the first to be declared a World Heritage Site in South Africa, in 1999. The iSimangaliso Authority’s core focus is to protect, conserve and present the Park and its world heritage values, and to deliver benefits to communities.


One phase of the Art Programme has been the partnership with the KZNSA Gallery’s Professional Practice Course. Developed and implemented by Gallery Director Brenton Maart, the course is an intensive, hands-on, activity-based programme that sees participants refine their visual language into a body of artwork that is then exhibited at the KZNSA Gallery. During this process, artists also develop skills in project and logistics management.


This is the fourth KZNSA Professional Practice Course, and has seen artists Nhlanahla Mabaso, Hlahlakupi Ndlovu, Gabisile Ndlovu, Gugulethu Mfekayi, Nelisiwe Msweli, Samuel Mtshali, Thokozani Mwelase, Memorial Biyela, Thulani Mkhize, Zaklele Bhekuyise and Bafana Cebekhulu from the Art Programme apply historical techniques in an entirely contemporary manner.


Artist Statement

I first got involved with art when I was still at school. It was one of our subjects, and we normally did a lot of drawing. However it’s not just drawing that I focused on. I also do craftwork, prints and as I am at this exhibition my focus was on painting.

It takes a while to come up with a painting that will attract people. I take my time when coming up with an idea, am cautious when working on it and eventually my thoughts are on paper just the way I imagined it.

There’s a saying that goes, “a picture can tell a thousand words”.Art is the same. I tell stories in the artwork I do. My work that is being exhibited tells a story of how people were removed from the Park during Apartheid in order to give animals freedom to move around. (?)
My art is based on themes that are covered in Land and Identity, Recording: Past and Present, and Environment and Humanity.


Gabisile Ndlovu was born at KwaHlabisa in 1984. Losing family members has made me find alternative means to console myself and make a living at the same time. I am the one who has to make sure that my 11-year-old sibling and I have something to eat at the end of the day. I had an elder sister but she passed away as well. Before her death I spent most of my time assisting her with paintings, as she was an arts teacher. I fell in love with painting then.

My sister taught me a lot but iSimangaliso also has played an important role in my knowledge of painting. I joined the iSimangaliso Art Programme when I heard that the Park was looking for skilled and semi-skilled people. Through iSimangaliso I have been facilitated by Andries Botha (sculptor) from Durban and Sam Nhlengethwa (painting) from Johannesburg who have been very inspiring.

Artist Statement

The work produced for this exhibition focuses on traditional Zulu practices that are interesting but are changing with younger generations moving away from these practices. I am concerned about this. Although it’s difficult to go back, it is interesting to reflect on Zulu practices that allowed people their dignity. Following traditional ways, you were grouped as one, doing the same things together and you were not alone. I used acrylic paint on Masonite board. I painted using different tones without just representing an image.

Examples of changing practices include a man being forced to shave his head as he needed to find work. Traditionally, black people were not allowed to have their hair shaved unless someone had died, but were now forced to do so in order to find work in the cities. On the other hand the work including a cow’s head inhloko symbolising that you can’t have a wife without following the traditional practice of lobola.


Born from parents who lived in KwaZulu Natal, Nhlanhla Mabaso grew up in Soweto, Johannesburg. He came back to KwaZulu-Natal in 1998 and now lives in KwaJobe. He is a visual artist specializing in drawing, painting, and sculpture and also is a mucisian. He is 40 years of age. He is known for his paintings with their interesting tonal values and techniques. He uses acrylics because he says that’s it’s the easiest to mix. This visual artist was encouraged to develop his talent further by the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) education curator at the time, Mr Prince Dube. Although he is known as a musician, he gave himself a chance to attend art workshops at the JAG.

In February 2001 Mr Mabaso had taken part in exhibitions at the Johannesburg Civic Centre, City Hall and Michaelis Art Library. He sold drawings and paintings to the City Council and Gotsou House. In 2003 he did many mural works in different places like Phinda Private Game Reserve, Community Craft Markets, public schools and in community projects.

Nhlanhla has participated in a group commission work by Andries Botha and Andrew Verster for the Presidential suite of Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban About is sculpture in the work, Ancestors.

Unity of different nations (legs)
Everlasting unity of the whole world before and after the 2010 World Cup (chain)
The wishes and joy of Africa for the celebration of Fifa World cup (soccer boots)
Some people do not like to see South Africa hosting Fifa World Cup (ususual/strange eyes).


Artist Statement

I mainly make paintings which are my favourite artwork discipline. Most of my artwork is landscapes of my imagination. I enjoy painting sunsets and sunrises because, capturing that moment of the day, I would discover unusual colours in nature. It is where I ‘read’ those combinations of colours, which stimulates my curiosity to create paintings about those unusual colours.

I like to imagine moods of the day in different types of landscapes. I also enjoy making my art at late hours so that I can able to balance dream colour tones with landscapes of my imagination. I mostly use acrylic paints because it dries faster than other types of paint and has no harmful smells.

I do like to paint landscapes that have plenty of big and small detail and that has taught me to be very patient in my artmaking. Many people who appreciate my work are very impressed about the use of detail and combination of colour. I am not new to the discipline of art. It’s been a long journey. I have sold many paintings in the streets of Johannesburg and have painted the walls of the Kloof Gold Mine in Westonaria, JHB. Some of my works were bought by political leaders such as iNkosi Dr. M.G Buthelezi in 2004.

I use wood for sculpture that reminds me of my childhood, where I had to play with toys, which I made myself from wood. I was from a poor family and as many other boys from rural areas, we started making wood tractors and trailers. I have not yet sold any of my wood sculptures.


My name is Samuel Mtshali, age 42. I live at Hluhluwe Nibela Reserve. I am a South African Zulu. I grew up having many talents such as soccer, playing guitar, boxing and drawing. Of all of these, drawing was the most loved, and that’s why I don’t want to miss this opportunity of participating in this exhibition. I started artmaking while I was young by using somebody’s shadow in the daylight, tracing it in soil and thereafter drawing big eyes, mouth and ears.

When I was young, I was different from other children because on the first day of school, my class teacher would give us work to do, and I would then make funny drawings which my teacher then, Miss Shelembe from Hammersdale, would mark “Good” on both the classwork and my drawings. The word “Good” to me meant encouragement.

From there I never looked back. I was further encouraged at high school where some of the teachers used me to decorate the school boards when they will be visited by other schools. Most students started to know me as an artist.
When my father passed away, there were insufficient funds to complete my studies at school. In 1996, I left school to join other men in Johannesburg working as a storeman in the Kloof Gold Mine. I was asked to paint the storeroom, where I added some decoration. I drew my boss’s face and he informed the big boss and I was called in for an interview. From there I had a new role in the company. I was called Picasso,… the word was new to me.

I now work in the security industry and had heard about the iSimangaliso Art Programme where I went for an interview. I passed that interview and am enjoying the course and the opportunities it gives me. I gripped it with both hands to make it real.


Artists Statement

When I studied handwork at school, this is where my love for artwork began. The need to focus on making art arose when I needed to earn a living. I then made it my full time job.

When I joined iSimangaliso’s Art Programme, the only knowledge I had about artwork was based on the wood carvings I was taught at primary school. However, now I know a lot more. I have now acquired skills in painting and printing. Between the two I fell in love with painting even though one of my printed pieces was sold at the Thyme Square restuarnt in St. Lucia.

I only started painting when I joined the iSimangaliso Art Programme. I love painting the most because it gets me thinking and I become very creative in the process. In this exhibition Brenton, our facilitator advised me to focus on the painting I have of roads. My paintings express my thoughts on the environment.

I was born in 1963. I have a wife, whom I married in 1986, and 5 children. I make a living by making wooden trays. I do not have a job as I stopped working in 1996 when the company that I worked for was shut down.

My life changed after joining the iSimangaliso Art Programme and I began painting as carving has a negative impact on nature. I decided to continue with painting, I like to paint because and it is also easy.

Supporting my family is a huge challnege in my condition, without a job and also being diagnosed with asthma.


Artists Statement

In this exhibition, I used acrylic paints on canvas. I prefer using canvas to masonite because this medium allows me to produce smooth and quality work. I have decided to produce landscape paintings.

The title of the work for this exhibition that I would like to share with people is: “Before Global Warming Takes Place.” That means that in a few years those beautiful misty landscapes and blue valleys that I refer to in my paintings, as well as ice lands will possibily not be there as it is now.

They would be history (forgotten) if the world does nothing about global warming.

As an artist who paints landscapes, I observe new things within nature. I am recording the history of our beautiful climate of today that we might lose. I played with different tones of blue, with soft blues to create that feeling of ‘cold’ in the paintings.


My name is Thulani Mkhize. I am male of 32 years. I reside at Mtubatuba. I was born in Esikhawini in Richards Bay. I am a father of three. I am a natural born artist and I enjoy painting.

I discovered my talent while I was still in school. We didn’t have art subjects but I still managed to inspire both teacher and learners with my drawings.

While I studied for my matric, which I did not pass and with a lack of funds at home I could not go back to school and repeat the year. Art is my life and it’s the only tool I have that can assist me to survive in this world.

I started drawing in 1991 after I was injured and lost vision in my right eye. In my early days after all the eye operations, it was very sad to be me, with pain every time I blinked. I decided to sketch and draw something to keep my nerves calm and to try not to concentrate on the pain in my eye. Sketching and drawing heals me a lot.

In 1998, I sold my first work of coloured pencil on cardboard mounted on masonite board. I sold it for R40. From there I started painting and promoting and selling my work within my community. I participated in festivals such as the Zululand Expo, flea markets, the Port Festival, and also sent work to the Empangeni Art and Craft Centre and Museum and the Esikhawini Mall.

In 2002 I shared my skill of painting with Brenda, who is my love. I formed a number of co-operatives amongst my community youth to transfer my skills.

In 2006 a local school asked me to train learners in visual art practicals from grade 5 to 9. I volunteered initially and completed that service for three years.

At the moment I am self-employed. I registered my business as isiGqulo Trading. I have a contract with Avuxeni Computer Academy to paint their school advert permanently on the walls.

With no formal training, but much practice I’m now specializing in painting, making banners, interior and exterior décor and craftwork.


Artists Statement

My interest in artwork began immediately after the passing away of my father, the only breadwinner at home. I did not want his death to seem like the world has come to an end for my family and me. As the eldest, I saw it as my duty to help my mother maintain the household.

I knew how to make mats (amacansi) however I somehow wanted to be creative and explore at the same time. This is when beads became a dear friend of mine. No one taught me how to use the beads and coming up with a product. I just went with the flow and came up with an Aids pin as my first design.

My designs focused on fashion trends as my colour combination is top of the range (if I may say so myself).

At a later stage, I moved away from fashion beadwork and had a sudden interest in using beads to demonstrate nature. My artwork at the moment captures nature. In this manner, I tried to be unique from other artists who normally illustrate nature through the meduim of paint. As much as I have been trained to sketch and paint by iSimangaliso Art Programme, I express myself best using beads and that’s how I will be telling my story at this exhibition.


I am Nelisiwe Victoria Msweli. I was born in Paulpietersburg, Bilanoyi area in 1979 by late Mr Sibisi and Mrs Sibisi.

Due to the passing away of my father I did not get to complete my matric.

Financial difficulties led me to take control of my life in order to make money to help towards the household. The use of beadwork was the best option I could come up with at the time.

In 1997 I got married and this led to me to move away from my place of birth to reside at Empangeni, Sokhulu area. Moving to the area gave me a platform to showcase my artwork at the district of Uthungulu and in Richards Bay at an exhibition held by the ZCBF. In 2006 I started a co-operation that is still in existence called Thubalethu Beads co-operation.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority has also played a vital role in my upliftment as an artist. Working with various artists that have made big names for themselves is an inpiration not to give up but want to do more. I have worked with Andries Botha who taught me sculpture, Dumisani Mabaso taught me how to make a lino print and Sam Nhlengethwa thought me how to paint.

A few of the artworks that I began creating included pins, amadavathi and umngqwaso (Shembe accessories). Making them was ‘a walk in the park’. The only thing that kept me going when I first started making the beads was the affordability of the material, which is completely a different story this day and age however I just keep on doing what I do best.

Quality, neatness, designs and my great colour combinations keep me going as people like and buy my work and in turn I manage to supply more. I have also sold some of my beadwork abroad.


Artists Statement

Title: African Pastors and Shembe

I wanted to show my ideas in a 3-Dimensional way to give viewers an “alive vision”. I wanted to show that the ancient pastors, the African priests of long ago were forced to preach the word of God as uniform, and to change from their traditional wear to what they called “civilization attire”, in other words, changing their skins to cloth. Everything was supposed to be changed, like their names, customs and so on. It also meant that Christian priests were changing the minds of people in traditional African communities.

Around 1910, the real man of God, the prophet Isiah Shembe, came driven by the word of God, and was not listening to those teachings that forced people to change, he accepted people as they were, with their traditional attire, certain traditional customs, etc. Those customs, which he considered were against God’s will, he abolished them.

Isiah Shembe had also created so many miracles like commanding the sea to reverse in 1918. He was also the first priest, to baptise people in the sea. My work encourages people to follow African traditional practices and the Shembe way.


Thokozani Mwelase, born on the 24 December 1985 in Mbazwana. The love of art started when he was 8 years old, as he was helping his mother in craft making and selling it. He participated in the iSimangaliso Art Programme and then demonstrated his sculptural and photographic talents.

He has a business that produces commercial videos and photography as his source of income for different functions like wedding ceremonies and events.

His photographic documentation skills will help him transfer these details into his sculptures. When he started working on multi media art after completing his matric, he not only made these to sell, but also transferred these skills to other members of his community.


Artist Statement:

These works are about my personal life. I want to share my life with others as an artist. I went through many difficulties as an artist, trying to be recognised, when people do not take you seriously.They look down on you because they do not understand art. An example of one of my personal challenges, which I see repeated in my community, is of my mum where relatives have taken advantage of her, where she will just accept it. I feel bad about that. I can’t do anything to change that. I feel disempowered.

Things happen in my life, in my community where people are being abused or taken advantage of, with situations where others are climbing on the backs of others. Asking favours of old people, forcing them to do things for them even if it’s not what they should be doing. For instance, the man with scorpions (one of my works) represents pain that people carry in their lives. The meduim I used is clay, which is a wonderful material. It reminds me of the softness of my mother’s heart, which people take advantage of. The resin, I found is wonderful because it becomes strong when it dries and makes me think of the courage she (mum) has.


Bafana started carving when he was still a herdboy and was impressed by the cattle. He wanted to create sculpture of them. He would use household utensils like wooden spoons, to create them. Art was not offered as a subject at school, but there was a guy who was always drawing famous musicians at the time - Thanda Dube – so Bafana became interested in what he was doing and ended up making his own drawings and getting into trouble when the teacher saw him.

In 1994, he registered for art at UDW – for 1 year only, as he ran out of cash to pay for tuition. He worked as a temporary teacher until 1995 at Ikusasalethu and Asiphekelele High School. In 2000, he met Memorial Nguni (Biyela) who was teaching art at a secondary school Siyaqala High School where he was a volunteer. They worked together. She showed him a great deal about art. In 2001 they exhibited at Mtubatuba Town Hall. In 2007 Bafana was employed as a temporary art teacher at Nkodibe High School until now.

He likes working with different techniques, but his interest is mainly in sculpture and painting. He likes painting portraits because many people like to have their portraits painted. He uses different paints but most of the time using acrylic paints because it dries quickly and saves time. This helps him produce a lot of work in a short space of time. Most of his works are commissions from people in his community.

He also uses clay found in the area he lives, to produce sculpture. He does not get any commissions for sculpture right now, but usually uses it to express feelings, which makes him feel better inside. He likes working with clay because it is easy to work with. If you make a mistake you can always add or take away clay without any difficulties.

He has been invited to take part in a few exhibitions in his hometown, Mtubatuba. The most remarkable one was the one held at Mtubatuba Town Hall in September 2001 where he exhibited alongside well-known artists like Memorial Biyela and many other local artists.

The themes of his work are mostly based on the relationships between people, and their cultures in a democratic South Africa.

My dream is to have artworks exhibited in some of the well-known art galleries in the country and abroad.


Artist Statement


Whenever there is art material before me, the subject matter which comes first is that of women. Women obesses me. I am proud of them for one reason – they are not quitters’ particulalry in the struggle of raising children. The three sculptures I have created for the exhibition are about the ordinary women in moods and situations. Part of it reflects the pain women would feel when they are dissappointed by their children or when others hurt or abuse them. My concern is about gender issues especially that of domestic violence. Some are aware of this situation, but are scared to ‘break the silence’. Some are totally ignorant about their rights. The sculpture, My Dawn, depicts women who are happy that represents me with regards to my art. The Art Programme has provided the opportunity to ‘close the gaps’ created by our country’s past history.
My work often shows uncovered breasts which symbolises women as ‘feeders of the nation’.

Memorial Nguni Biyela is a sculptor from Mtubatuba. She works as an art teacher at Ekupheleni High School in the Empangeni Education District. She has taught art in schools for about 20 years. She was born to a family of artists and discovered her talent when she was young, but did not get the opportunity to do art at school. She grew up teaching herself. Her grandmother influenced her to make sculpture as she used to model clay ethnic dolls. Clay is her favourite material for sculpture and ceramics.
In 1992, she was selected by the Department of Education to be trained as an art teacher at the Eshowe College of Education. In 2002, she was given an opportunity to exhibit her sculptures at the Bat Centre. And in 2004, she was commissioned to create a public sculpture of iNkosi Mtubatuba Mkhwanazi after whom the town is named. While being trained on the iSimangaliso Art Programme, she was given the opportunity to participate in a group commission, one that was offered by Andries Botha and Andrew Verster, which was one of seven ‘totem pole’ type wooden carvings. The work was called Ancestors.

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