21 October 2001 by Andries Loots

" To paint is to express joy. My guide is the quest for beauty. I am striving for harmony and brightness. I always want to paint,  it is my life and my will.  "

Today we are  made more aware of the amazing vibrant and colourful art of the Ndebele in Galleries around the world. Esther Mahlangu,  the best known,  was the first person to transfer the traditional mural art to canvas. During the same time Francina Ndimande came into the spotlight as she traveled and exhibited with Esther to various International exhibitions. Although Esther and Francina live and work closely together in their home town,  their work is very different. Francina's designs are more stylized with bolder more vibrant colours than of her fellow artist. 

The intricate patterns in her mural artwork are created spontaneously and she doesn't sketch them first. As she proceeds, she constantly corrects any errors manually. Her mind is sorting out the images, the patterns, and the colors as she goes along.

Francina's designs were used in Germany on an exclusive rage of crockery which is sold next to limited edition works by some of Europe's best and well known Contemporary artists. 

In the beginning the Ndebele painted with cow dung and this changed as clays of different colours were added to produce  black,  red,  white,  green and yellow. The house was traditionally built with mud bricks and sealed or plastered with mud. Feathers or bundled-twigs were used as brushes to apply the mixture of clay and dung onto the prepared surface.  

A local German Catholic priest introduced Francina to commercial paints. He commissioned her husband and herself to decorate the church, Isango LeZulu. For the interiors they used water-based color tubes. On the exterior, to protect it from the rain, they used commercial whitewash and waterbased paints as it was more durable and she has been using it since for her artwork exhibited regularly at International exhibitions.  She works with acrylic on canvas or on a high quality art paper. She also paints on objects and artifacts as requested by her clients. 

" Every mother is proud that her daughter has been instructed in amaNdebele values and customs ",  and it is for this reason that Francina and Esther are now teaching their traditional customs and art at their local center to the girls of their village to preserve this tradition for generations to come.

Andre Magnin & Jaques Soulillou,  Contemporary Art of Africa,  Thames and Hudson,  1996

Interview with Vusi D. Mchunu " To paint is to express joy " in AmaNdebele,  signals of colour from South Africa,  Ed. Ernst Wasmuth Verlag,  Tubingen,  Germany,  1991

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