Spotlights on indigenous dolls

South African beaded dolls are among those on show at Durban’s KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood from July 31 to August 19. All pictures by Niamh Walsh-Vorster.

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BY BILLY SUTER

THREE fascinating examples of doll-making, featured in an exhibition titled Re-Stitching Culture: Indigenous Dolls of South Africa, Australia and Canada, will be seen in the main gallery at Durban’s KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood from July 31 to August 19.

The exhibition will run in tandem with Markus Wörsdörfer’s photographic solo exhibition, DriftArt, a dreamy, poetic look at findings along the shoreline, in the KZNSA’s Mezzanine Gallery. It also opens on July 31.

Entrance is free and all are welcome. The cafe bar will be open.

Re-Stitching Culture reclaims traditional practice, explores health and wellbeing, and reveals intimate human stories through doll making, according to to KZNSA spokesman.

Re-Stitching Culture reclaims traditional practice, explores health and wellbeing, and reveals intimate human stories through doll-making.

“Showcasing and bringing together three international examples of doll-making from three indigenous groups, the artists use dollmaking to highlight cultural practices that support healing through storytelling, and the sharing of oral personal narratives, which promote the transmission of cultural teachings.

“Encountering the Gomeroi gaaynggal programme, colourful Yarning dolls (Australia); the Six Nations Haudenosaunee People, and their faceless cornhusk dolls (Canada); and the Siyazama Project (South Africa) with their beautiful beaded dolls that support locally relevant HIV/AIDS education, is an unusual, and unique visual experience.”

The Re-Stitching Culture gathering of dolls collectively shows how the local indigenous communities, from each nation, are strengthened through reciprocol, creative and healing processes. This, in turn, supports capacity building for problem solving, and the reclaiming of indigenous knowledge, history and identity.

Communal craft and art-making has traditionally been a visually powerful medium for expressing cultural identities. In the pre-colonial past, plant and animal materials were gathered, and crafted in combination with storytelling, singing and dancing.

These actions helped to maintain social relations, perpetuate ideals, and support cultural behaviours that were considered beneficial in upholding communal wellbeing.

Doll-making is an example of a communal visual art form that plays a role in supporting healthy indigenous communities. This communal gathering of individuals to learn new artistic skills and to revitalise the stories, memories and identities are exemplified by the making of their individual dolls, which are all now presented in exhibition form to further the cause and inform the public.

Some of the dolls to be exhibited at Durban’s KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood.

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