Esther Mahlangu, Ufly, Pigment on canvas, 2006, 60 x 100cm
Noria Mabasa, Seated Venda girl, original clay to be cast in bronze, 2006, 40cm




10 October 19h00 – 11 November 2006

South African art history is a reflection of the country’s social and political history. Among the many traumatic consequences of apartheid, is the sad fact that historically, very few black women reached recognition in the world of the fine art. MEMORY INNOVATION TRADITION, an exhibition of selected sculptural works by Noria Mabasa and paintings by Esther Mahlangu, is 34LONG’s tribute to these two pioneering South African artists of determination and distinction. 

Noria Mabasa was born in 1938 in Xigalo village in Limpopo Province, South Africa. A self-trained sculptor, she has been working full-time at her art since 1976. She works mostly in clay from a riverbed near her home. Noria also carves wooden sculptures, some small, some monumental. Working in wood is quite unique for a woman in Venda, where woodcarving is regarded as a male occupation. As a child, Noria helped her father by looking after the family’s goats and donkeys, traditionally the job of boys, so challenging social stereotypes seems to come easily to her. Noria says that her art is a response to instructions from ancestors received in dreams. 

MEMORY INNOVATION TRADITION features neither clay nor wooden sculpture by Noria, but specially cast editioned bronzes. Noria was introduced to bronze as a sculptural medium in the late 1980s, and she contributed a free-standing monumental work in bronze to the Cape Town Waterfront’s Nobel Square project. In close collaboration with 34LONG she created figures in clay, to be transferred to wax and then to bronze, especially for this exhibition. 

Esther Mahlangu was born in 1935 in rural Mpumalanga where, like most Ndebele girls of her generation, she learnt to decorate houses with traditional materials like cow dung and mud, extending to commercial house paints as those became available. Her passion for using traditional images in innovative projects has made her an internationally respected artist, bringing the magic world of Ndebele tradition to world art. Esther has worked with 34LONG often in the past, crafting a solid partnership of trust and mutual understanding. 

For this exhibition, Esther’s main material is a mixture of cattle dung and mud. Her idiom remains characteristically Ndebele in her highly individualistic, yet closely traditional expressions.

34LONG regards the opportunity to host a joint exhibition by Mabasa and Mahlangu as an enormous privilege, a great opportunity and a valuable contribution to the Cape Town art scene. 

Consult the following publications if you would like to learn more about these two exceptional artists: Noria Mabasa (David Krut Publishing, 2003, Taxi-007 series); Images of metal (E Rankin, 1994, Wits University Press); Esther Mahlangu (FR de Jager and AG Loots, 2003, V-gallery).
All images © the artists, 2006
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