African heritage inspires our artists

Richard Pullen smoke fired ceramics, Zulu lulu Heritage month exhibition
Richard Pullen smoke fired collection

Heritage is under the spotlight this month at ZULU LULU Art House gallery in the KZN Midlands – where a collection of works speaking to heritage are on display. This comes as South Africa celebrates Heritage Month – a recognition of different aspects of our country’s culture, including creative expression.

Among the heritage-related pieces on show at the Piggly Wiggly based gallery are ceramic vessels, pots and figurines; bead work; photographs and drawings.Heritage month exhibit at ZULU LULU art house“Art is important to our heritage because what we leave behind as artists will give future generations insight into our world today and will converse with those in the future long after we are gone,” says Bathurst-based ceramic artist Richard Pullen – who he has a range of smoke-fired pots as part of the exhibit (three of which are pictured on the left).

ZULU LULU gallery curator and ceramic artist Trayci Tompkins echoes this: “Art has always been and always will be ‘a diary of sorts’ to humanity. It’s the way we as humans express ourselves and celebrate our lives, our environment, our dreams. History would have no substance without art or art makers.”

Michelle Legg coiling in studio
Michelle Legg in studio

Ceramic designer and maker Michelle Legg, who’s from Gauteng, has a range of statement hand-coiled ceramics on exhibition. She’s says her work is personal in concept with reference to South African indigenous rural ceramics incorporating European lace decoration.

“The combination of these totally diverse concepts paved the way to new and innovative work. The development of the forms of my work was influenced by indigenous African ceramics that have for centuries been used for celebrations; cooking, serving and storing of food,” says Legg.

Contemporary artist Gregg Price – whose exciting work is on display at ZULU LULU Art House – says his landscapes are distinctly African.  “Space, and the placement of objects, is an expression of the vastness of our country’s landscape. In many of my drawings, I make use of a horizon line, which is typical of what one might encounter in the Karoo. I use strong and vibrant colour in my work, and my mark making is directly influenced by the many cultural expressions I have experienced since childhood,” he says.

Gregg Price artwork at ZULU LULU gallery
Gregg Price artwork

“Just as we all walk and speak in a particular way, our drawing style is just as distinct. It is the culmination of our heritage, both personal and from the world at large. I understand these influences as stories that combine – and with some artistic alchemy – generate a new story for the present,” adds Price.

Ceramic artist Phumlani Nyawo with some of his pieces
Phumlani Nyawo with some of his pieces on display

Ceramic sculptor Phumlani Nyawo – whose smoke-fired clay cattle form part of the ZULU LULU display – grew up in Pongola, spending most of his childhood watching Brahman and Nguni herds graze in the fields around his home.  It was these memories that he says he revisited when he found his way to clay in 2006 with some clay dug from the Umlazi River. Since then he’s been perfecting his skill in sculpture; finding his own signature and style of construction using ‘homemade hacksaw blade tools’ that give his cattle a subtle texture and character. Nyawo has recently joined a group of artists working together in Umhlali. “Without other artists I cannot survive,” he says, adding that he’s enjoying the journey and personal growth that his art provides.

Into the Light giraffe photo by Warwick LockeKwaZulu-Natal photographer Warwick Locke says his art speaks to his heritage in a strong way. “My wildlife photography represents a very intricate part of our heritage, but if we start digging around in the past, we find we have abused it, confined it and continue to exploit it.  My architectural photography is in its infancy and currently includes the more modern structures.  My style lends itself to these constructions, but as my skill evolves I want the body of work to include our more traditional heritage assemblies.  My intention is that these sites, whether old or new, get a fresh new perspective, something unexpected, perhaps whimsical and always, always, striving for something greater.”

“Our cultural heritage is our connection to each other, our belonging to a community and a people. The artefacts we leave behind as artists will help shape how our children see each other and the world we leave behind for them,” says Pullen.

Tompkins concludes: “Celebrating something that already lies ‘within’ is important to every artist. It speaks to our authenticity; it allows our work to speak of who we are. The Heritage exhibition is a celebration of the diversity each artist brings to their work and how ‘heritage’ is woven into their inspirations.”

Below, are some more of the artworks on display in September.

The exhibit runs throughout September at ZULU LULU ART HOUSE Gallery in the Midlands. For more information, contact Trayci Tompkins via

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