And it’s this diversity of fauna and flora which has inspired Ardmore Ceramic Art’s The Great Zambezi exhibition, which will be staged at The Cellars - Hohenort in Cape Town from until February 19.
Running through parts of Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe - birthplace of Ardmore founder Fée Halsted - the river and its fauna and flora have been imaginatively realised in ceramics.
The works, which evoke memories of the stories of Rudyard Kipling and Rider Haggard, include troops of vervet monkeys chattering in the forest canopy and flame lilies and Scadoxus flowers interacting with colourful Narina trogons and African pitta birds.
The ceramics have also inspired a range of fabric, the Zambezi Collection, which is being showcased, and a new range of wallpaper from British-based company Cole & Son.
“Having coveted Ardmore Ceramics for several years and being strongly drawn to their whimsicality and narrative, it is a privilege and a delight to be recreating fabulous Ardmore stories onto wallpaper,” said Cole & Son creative director Shauna Dennison.
Fée Halsted added: “For 31 years the Ardmore artists and I have toiled away in KwaZulu-Natal creating fanciful ceramics that have provided an income to feed many a family.
“That Cole & Son discovered and chose our designs and artistry to place on its new collection is an honour and we pride ourselves on being the first African designers to have achieved such an accolade.
“It was a hectic but exciting year for me and my family In January last year the French luxury brand Hermes launched my daughter Catherine’s designs, Le Marche de Zambezi and Savanna Dance, on silk scarves. The world responded with excitement and enthusiasm, so we set about creating a new fabric range, The Zambezi Having never worked at creating fabric alone, it has been a challenging experience but, more importantly, it has been so much fun.”
The collection, which is colourful and sophisticated, has five designs, including Amasumpa, which means life force, and is a feature in traditional Zulu pots. The small circular designs also featured in Ardmore’s Qalakabusha fabric range.
“We felt it necessary to bring this design back as a tribute to our Zulu artistry and creativity,” said Halsted. “The Ardmore painters often design wonderful borders on the base or rims of their pots and we found some wonderful circular amasumpa that resulted in this design. They are randomly placed to give energy and make us aware that life is not too ordered or controlled.”
Africa’s beautiful coral trees - also known as lucky bean trees - and mischievous monkeys come together in the Monkey Bean range, which shows how valuable these plants are to the ecosystem, providing food and shelter for a variety of birds, animals and insects.
Leopards and black-backed jackals provide the heart of the Bush Bandits design, which was taken off a platter moulded by Kenneth Msomi and painted by Siyabonga Mbaso; while crocodiles and strelitzia, or bird of paradise, flowers combine with vines and banana leaves in the River Chase design.
The final design, Feather, has been taken from the natural geometric patterns on wings of birds.
To coincide with the exhibition there will be a preview lunch for invited guests and an opening evening function. On February 17, 18 and 19 there will be talks by Halsted.
For more information, visit www.ardmoreceramics.co.za or contact Clint Pavkovich via e-mail at [email protected] for details.
* The Zambezi Fabric Collection will be available from February at Mavromac, the Halsted Design shop in Johannesburg and at Ardmore Ceramic Art’s studio in Caversham, KwaZulu-Natal.
Enquiries: 033 940 0034 or the Halsted shop at 011 268 5865.