As part of its socio-economic development initiatives, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority is currently running a training workshop for budding artists hailing from areas surrounding the World Heritage Site. Courses include print making, painting, sculpture and the business of art, offering a well-rounded and holistic education for those wishing to improve their skills and create economic opportunities for themselves from their art works. Four professional artists were contracted to train the artists in separate sessions – Mr Sanele Jali (print making), Mr Sakhile Mhlongo (painting) and Mr Mondli Mdanda (sculpture), and Art Source provided valuable tuition on the business of art, including the commercial realities. A total of 40 students were given tuition, with differing group sizes per session.
According to iSimangaliso’s Capacity Building Manager, Nonku Lafuleni, “the iSimangaliso Art programme is one of several integrated rural development programmes implemented by iSimangaliso that addresses the development needs of communities living in and around the Park. One of the Authority’s major objectives is to ensure that the World Heritage Site is developed in a way that ensures residents benefit from the Park. Contributing towards the alleviation of poverty is a core function of the Authority and empowerment strategies include ownership, job creation, procurement and training.”
Running through the programme is the central theme of conservation and preservation of World Heritage Site values. Says Nonku: “It is essential that the artists not only create excellent bodies of work, but also understand the context and integral link to the environment and our work in the Park. Subject matter has therefore included Park signage, animals, indigenous trees and other natural forms. Our artists understand that without the presence of such features, there would be no inspiration for their work.” She adds that the artists “showed great willingness to learn and did not shy away from asking questions. They were also encouraged to continue to do their own research which will be of great benefit to them in future.”
As the training nears its end, the culmination of the training will be an exhibition of the best of the work produced. We look forward to the results of this rewarding programme!