Woven Legacies – Celebrating the evolution of artisanal craftsmanship

9 Feb 2024

Strauss & Co is thrilled to announce its upcoming timed online sale, Woven Legacies, Celebrating African Artistry, opening Tuesday 6th and will close at one minute intervals from 2pm on Tuesday 20th February. The sale signals a dynamic celebration of the evolving appreciation for artisanal craftsmanship across the continent. Long considered subordinate to the higher profile disciplines of art and sculpture, the works presented in this sale are at the forefront of this growing movement – one that Strauss & Co is delighted to be a part of. The sale features a diverse selection of pieces, ranging from beaded panels to telephone wire baskets and woven tapestries, each intricately woven with traditional roots that trace back to utilitarian practices across the African continent. 

Starting in the latter half of the 20th century and continuing today, however, a new market has emerged. This market is driven by the convergence of collectors, project-based economic empowerment for the communities where these artworks originate, and a growing appreciation for the skill and artistic finesse inherent in these works. This confluence has breathed new life into this once undervalued artistic practice and cultivated a heightened demand for it.

At the core of this burgeoning market are the captivating narratives that weave through each piece — who are the artists, and what unfolds through their unique stories? Shifting from mere functionality to a realm of artistic expression, it becomes essential to honour the skilled hands behind these creations. No longer confined to crafting utilitarian objects in anonymity, it is becoming important to celebrate these individuals for their exceptional artistic prowess and talent.

In light of this, the sale takes great pleasure in featuring works from various project-based groups dedicated to centralizing, highlighting, and ultimately empowering their artists. A noteworthy example is the inclusion of three exquisite copper-wire woven bowls Lots 34, 35, 36 from the Threads of Africa project, a collaborative effort with the Mdukatshani development Trust situated in the Thukela Valley of KwaZulu Natal. This project is committed to revitalizing the age-old African tradition of metalwork within a contemporary framework, shedding light on the meticulous artistry of basket weaving with metals.

Furthermore, Lots 22 and 23 feature two Zulu telephone wire baskets by Bheki Dlamini, offering fine examples of his transformation of the once functional Zulu Imbegne (originally used to cover clay beer pots) into his personal canvas. Dlamini skilfully integrates both figures and text into these works, not only showcasing his profound weaving expertise but also demonstrating his ability to narrate notable stories of national pride and significance. Within these pieces, we witness the celebration of both Nelson Mandela’s 80th birthday and the Springbok victory at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.  Finally, the sale proudly showcases an established collectable work by Cecil Skotnes, Lot 3, crafted at the Stephens Tapestry Studio, under the dedicated stewardship of Marguerite Stephens. This well-regarded work was woven by the skilled hands of Margaret Zulu, Rhoda Sori and Virginia Mazwaba. Through her efforts, Stephens ardently brings together already celebrated artists, such as William Kentridge, Robert Hodgins and Skotnes, seamlessly merging their talents with the intricate art form of weaving. This inclusion stands as a culmination of the rich fabric of woven art histories, skilfully intertwining traditional practices with the vibrant threads of modern art. It is this conversation that defines the sale, Woven Legacies,Celebrating African Artistry.


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