The Fabric of Society - Auction of important Southern African Textiles and Fibre Art
20 May 2022
Timed online sale: 18 May to 1 June 2022
It is virtually impossible to think about contemporary South African art without mentioning such artists as Igshaan Adams, Nicholas Hlobo, Turiya Magadlela and Billie Zangewa, artists all working with fibre and textile, and whose works are included in the recent Phaidon publication, Vitamin T: Threads and Textiles in Contemporary Art (2019). Equally important are well-known classical texts in which women take control of the narrative by weaving: Penelope weaves and then unravels the shroud of her father-in-law to delay choosing between her three suitors, knowing, believing, that her husband Ulysses is still alive; Phelomena weaves the story of her rape; and Helen weaves scenes from the war between the Greeks and the Trojans.
In the wake of the very successful contemporary South African ceramic sale in 2021, Strauss & Co is pleased to offer another unique asset class for collectors of the arts: a range of textiles, created by various individual contemporary artists as well as communities of textile workers and artists.
The lots include items from very prominent sources, including:
- The FirstRand Art Collection, which is deaccessioning phenomenal Mapula cloths and works by prominent South African fibre artist to focus more exclusively on collecting other forms of African contemporary art.
- The Natalie Knight Collection of singular Tsonga/Shangaan and Ndebele textiles and beadwork.
- The Keiskamma Art Project’s standout The Marriage of Nolulama and Luthando altarpiece and small-scale tapestries from the collective.
- The Harry Lits Collection of Amadlozi and African Art’s Kuba raffia cloths, made by the Bakuba people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Also of interest are tapestries from the acclaimed ELC Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift, first established by art-school graduates Peder and Ulla Gowenius as a poverty-alleviation initiative in the early 1960s at a small Swedish mission station in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as iconic small-scale carpets designed by Norman Catherine and woven in East London.
The Natalie Knight Collection includes fine examples of Tsonga and Shangaan cloth artworks and beadwork, some of which shown on the exhibition, Dungamanzi, Stirring Waters, at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2007. The items from this collection range from n’wana (child figures) to sangoma skirts, all items imbued with cultural and spiritual significance. Two iconic historical Ndebele beaded and leather aprons will also form part of the auction.
The Keiskamma Art Project, set up in the Eastern Cape 2000 as an upliftment initiative for impoverished Xhosa women in the area, is best known for its large-scale altarpiece that was inspired by the famous Bayeux tapestry, and which is now in the Parliament Collection in Cape Town. It records the history of South Africa, with a focus on the Eastern Cape, over its 120 metres of length. Large-scale alterpieces are iconic in the project’s repertoire, and Strauss & Co is proud to handle the latest, The Marriage of Nolulama and Luthando, which tells a compelling story. This altarpiece is made up of a central panel with eight side panels, framed as one work. Nolulama and Luthando were two of the earliest AIDS patients in the local community to receive antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. They met in the AIDS patients treatment centre and subsequently married. The work was made to celebrate young people going back to a normal life after regaining their health. Made by members of the Keiskamma Art Project in classes with visual artist Marialda Marais, the central panel depicts Nolulama and Luthando in appliqué and embroidery on cloth, while the acrylic paintings in the side panels were inspired by the stories told by elderly people in the community who had lost their children.
Another lot in the sale, Canterbury, is froma new cycle of Keiskamma altar pieces based on Marguerite Poland’s novel A Sin of Omission (Penguin, 2019). The artwork depicts the mission school at Canterbury Cathedral where the main character in the novel, Stephen Mzamane, trained in the early 1870s.
The Mapula Embroidery Project north-west of Pretoria was started as an upliftment initiative in 1991, with Emily Maluleke managing the collective and training and supporting a group of women from various backgrounds and language groups. The distinctive cloths depict lively, colourful embroidered scenes from traditional and contemporary life and culture, as well as special occasions in South African public life.
Kuba cloth, from the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, is sometimes referred to as ‘cut-pile velvet’. It consists of a base of plain-weave raffia cloth, produced by the men of the Bakuba community, with distinctive geometric patterns cut and embroidered by the women, superimposed.
The lots on auction testify to textiles as a major means of artistic expression for contemporary artists, who are exploring the possibilities of weaving, plaiting, knotting, sewing, embroidery, and knitting. These artists use wool, cotton, linen, leather, rope, silk, hair, and beads to challenge inherited notions of domesticity and femininity, and to tell stories about histories of socio-economic and political life in this country.
These works aim to unravel the conventional separation of fine art and craft, to unpick perfunctory categories and artificial divisions, and to weave together new patterns of thinking about art.
All these lots testify to the creative possibilities of fibre in constituting the fabric of society.
2022 Press Releases
- 4 Oct 2022 Strauss & Co announces its diverse programme of activities for Toyota US Woordfees 2022
- 12 Oct 2022 Impression/Expression theme leads the Strauss & Co October online offering
- 5 Sep 2022 Strauss & Co’s auction of Decorative Arts and Jewellery includes important Cape silver pieces from the Louis and Mavis Shill Collection
- 6 Sep 2022 The Oliver Powell and Timely Investments Trust Collection explores innovation and tradition in South African painting
- 7 Sep 2022 The African Art Business Newsletter
- 12 Sep 2022 Robert Hodgins: a life in colour
- 13 Sep 2022 Strauss & Co presents four works on paper spanning William Kentridge's prolific career
- 17 Sep 2022 Alfred Thoba: Black Modernist Maverick
- 22 Sep 2022 Vinous Treasures Await at this Year's Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction
- 23 Sep 2022 William Kentridge flower print tops results at Strauss & Co's spring sale
- 26 Sep 2022 Strauss & Co's September Online-Only auction offers something for everyone
- 22 Aug 2022 Decorative Arts online sale offers a nostalgic glimpse into the past
- 22 Aug 2022 Strauss & Co's August online sale shines the spotlight on Eastern Cape artists
- 31 Aug 2022 Distinguished single-owner collections lead Strauss & Co's Cape Town Auction Week
- 5 Jul 2022 Strauss & Co's single-artist sale revisits the journeys of Pierneef, a lifelong traveller
- 11 Jul 2022 A new level of prices at the Strauss and Co fine wine Tabernacle auction
- 13 Jul 2022 Strauss & Co’s single-artist sale of works by JH Pierneef affirms his premium status
- 19 Jul 2022 Strauss & Co devotes single-artist auction to celebrated artist William Kentridge
- 29 Jul 2022 Paying homage to Die Kunskamer, the gallery that changed the course of SA art
- 3 Jun 2022 Strauss & Co celebrates a century of watercolour painting in its May Online-Only Auction
- 3 Jun 2022 Inspiration and Protégé
- 9 Jun 2022 Cheers and applause resound at Strauss & Co's landmark sale of works by Irma Stern
- 15 Jun 2022 Strauss & Co takes you on a journey through abstraction in their latest 19th Century, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary offering
- 15 Jun 2022 African designers feature strongly in Strauss & Co’s June sale of decorative arts
- 30 Jun 2022 Pierneef oils depicting scenes from his African travels
- 11 May 2022 The Peter Veldsman & Dirkie Christowitz Private Collection
- 11 May 2022 Strauss & Co’s marvellous Surrealism auction includes key works by Kentridge and Preller
- 15 May 2022 Five must-see artworks at Strauss & Co’s Johannesburg Auction Preview
- 18 May 2022 Strauss & Co’s focus on Surrealism yields top auction result for Kentridge drawing
- 20 May 2022 The Fabric of Society - Auction of important Southern African Textiles and Fibre Art
- 20 May 2022 Strauss & Co to host a comprehensive single-artist auction of works by Irma Stern
- 25 May 2022 Landmark auction of works by Irma Stern, South Africa’s top female artist
- 4 Apr 2022 Strauss & Co to offer a worldly selection of furniture, ceramics and jewellery in April
- 4 Apr 2022 Strauss & Co to offer a private collection of artworks and jewellery that highlight the genius of Alexis Preller
- 5 Apr 2022 Late Gqeberha artist's portrait set to sell for pretty penny
- 8 Apr 2022 Strauss & Co supports the growth of Art from the Continent as the main sponsor of the African Art in Venice Forum
- 11 Apr 2022 International collectors flock to Strauss & Co’s successful decorative arts auction
- 11 Apr 2022 Strauss & Co launches Africa’s first NFT auction with SA’s leading fine wine producers
- 12 Apr 2022 Figuration and Landscape Triumph at Strauss & Co’s first grand marquee auction of the year.
- 14 Apr 2022 Robust demand for historical Asian art informs Strauss & Co’s April offering
- 14 Apr 2022 Strauss & Co divulges the connections between the Venice Biennale and South African art as the art world converges on Venice
- 28 Apr 2022 As global museums reappraise the legacy of Surrealism, Strauss & Co’s sale expands the debate
- 4 Mar 2022 Special focus on portraiture leads Strauss & Co’s exciting March online sale
- 8 Mar 2022 Strauss & Co invites you to celebrate the inauguration of the Strauss & Co Shop
- 15 Mar 2022 Strauss & Co successfully hosts three online auctions of art, fine wine and furniture.
- 15 Mar 2022 Bidders snatch classic country furniture, vintage wine and art at Strauss & Co’s Online-Only Auction
- 15 Mar 2022 Important Senegalese portrait by Irma Stern invigorates Strauss & Co’s figure-rich April sale.
- 27 Mar 2022 From Laubser to Lewis: Strauss & Co sale explores the historical context to the figure in art
- 30 Mar 2022 Strauss & Co have partnered with premium jewellery designer Mahak Kala of Panchoo London for a unique offering to be launched in April through the Strauss & Co Shop.
- 3 Feb 2022 African Art Galleries Association announces Emerging Painting Invitational (EPI)
- 7 Feb 2022 Sixteen African artists picked for Emerging Painting Invitational Prize
- 9 Feb 2022 Strauss & Co’s bumper February online sale boasts a strong contemporary focus
- 18 Feb 2022 Emerging Painting Invitational (EPI) Prize Winners for 2022 Announced
- 24 Feb 2022 Education and outreach underpin Strauss & Co’s busy February programme
- 28 Feb 2022 Post-pandemic – How has Covid-19 changed the local art scene? Part 1
- 28 Feb 2022 We must support the art community affected by the pandemic, says Strauss & Co. Part 2