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NotesStern would spend much of the 1920’s travelling throughout South Africa, with visits to Umgababa in Kwa-Zulu Natal in 1922, Swaziland in 1927 and Pondoland in 1929 providing the inspiration for her work of this period.
Between these early voyages of discovery, she would again visit Europe in 1924, exhibiting at the Empire Exhibition in London and receiving the Prix d’Honneur at the Bordeaux International exhibition.
Stern would purchase The Firs in her own name in 1927, before travelling for a third and final time to Swaziland at the end of the year.1 This portrait of a Woman Carrying a
Pot was presumably executed in the region of the Ezulwini Valley where Stern stayed during October and November of 1927.
During this visit she was invited by the Swazi King, Sobhuza II, to attend a traditional dance at the Royal Kraal in Ludzidzini, some 10 kilometres away from where she was
This elongated rendition in charcoal reveals Stern’s preference for the large narrow format that can be seen in a number of the oil paintings from the period. Her figures here are often sleek and stylised, but illustrate the immediacy of Stern’s hand coupled with her acute skills of translating her pictorial observations. Possibly one of her largest charcoals ever executed, the
figure, partially draped in cloth, carries a traditional vessel atop her head, presumably for purposes of consuming beer during the festivities at the Kraal of King Sobhuza II.
1. Marion Arnold (1995) Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, Vlaeberg: Fernwood, page 19.
2. Clive Kellner (2012) Representations of the Black Subject in Irma Stern’s African Periods: Swaziland, Zanzibar and Congo 1922–1955, University of Cape Town, unpublished MA dissertation, page 31.
The Irma Stern Trust Collection, accession number 730.
Andrea Lewis (2006) Journeys to the interior, Unseen Works by Irma Stern 1929-1939, Cape Town: Kaplan Kushlick Foundation, illustrated in colour on centre fold out pages.