Dreaming about ”Who Were the Weavers”?

A man in Australia had a dream of a little, handwoven golden bowl.  He owned a copper wire bowl woven in the Thukela valley of Kwazulu-Natal, which because of his interest in metals and his engineering background, got him asking whether a similar bowl could be made in gold wire?

So began an experiment weaving with 18-carat gold wire, championed by Julia Meintjies who commissioned Mzonzima Dladlato to create a bowl that painstakingly took two years to produce – and resulted in the exhibition The Earth is Watching Us, a collaborative project, called Threads of Africa.

Nobody knows when gold wire was first hammered into strips on the South African veld.
But the first evidence of handmade gold wire was unearthed in graves in Mapungubwe, occupied in the late 1200’s and part of the Late Iron Age, when African metalsmiths were skilled at extracting metal from rock.
They were after iron for weapons and copper for decoration which was the ”red gold’, the prestige metal  of Africa, offered to the gods and buried in graves.

By 300 AD, in an age of innovation and settlement, a new way of life had spread from the Limpopo south to Natal and the wooded valleys of the Thukela River, where almost every village could produce the iron and steel needed to make tools to clear the land, build homes and till the soil.
And where today, two family group potters still make the earthenware pots that are used as moulds by the weavers of the Threads of Africa project.

See and buy – contemporary bowls and bangles woven in fine 18-carat gold wire, as well as sterling silver, shakudo, copper and brass.
Visit  this exhibition at the Gold of Africa museum in Strand Street, Cape Town on until the end March.
The collection of 95 bowls will be exhibited at the Amaridien Gallery in New York in May and the Museum der Kulturen in Switzerland at the end of the year. The bowls have been added to a collection belonging to Iziko National Gallery in Cape Town and the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg.

Delight in craftsmanship that ”embraced the shape and kissed the thickness’ – Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman.

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