There has been a renaissance in Zulu arts and crafts since the Vukani Association was formed more than 30 years ago to revive the then-dying art of basketry.
Through Vukani, men and women have pooled their inherited knowledge of grasses, palm leaves, natural dyes, beadwork, woodcarving and ceramics to produce a range of contemporary items with a traditional theme.
The Vukani Museum houses some of the best work collected over the years. Several of the artists have gone on to receive international recognition and it is worth seeking their work out.
The late Nesta Nala came from a long line of ukhamba makerts who lived in u'Thukela valley. Traditionally the clay pots would have been used for beer brewing and drinking but by working with new tools and designs, Nesta Nala elevated these everyday domestic objects to an art form.
A chance meeting with archaeologists excavating near her home in the 1980's exposed her to early iron age pottery designs which she then developed into her signature style and today this tradition is being carried on by her daughters.
Reuben Ndwandwe from the Hlabisa area was one of the few remaining men who still weaved baskets. His imbenge and unyazi were characterised by their diamond designs and fine overstitching which created a lace-like texture.
The Vukani Zulu Cultural Museum was created in 1991, using the personal collection of Rev Kjell Lofroth and Mrs Bertha Lofroth as its core. Rev and Mrs Lofroth with their friend, Baba Elliot Dludla, were the driving force behind the Vukani Association, which almost single-handedly created a new market for the crafters of Zululand.
Today, the museum has built on this outstanding work and has an international reputation as a repository of some the most exquisite Zulu craft, including the largest known collections of the work of the late Nesta Nala and the late Reuben Ndwandwe. The impact is breathtaking as the eye is drawn from the plain, functional items of yesteryear to the magnificent artistic expressions of today. Through this wide range, the museum walks the line between an ethnological centre and an art gallery.
The museum is under the stewardship of the Vukani Collection Trust, a multi-cultural group of local residents who are passionate about the rare works in their charge. With their dedicated staff, they have committed themselves to rescuing old items of traditional use, and to creating opportunities for contemporary crafters to market their work. To raise funds for this purpose, they buy and sell superb craft work at fair prices, and collectors are welcome to make enquiries in this regard.
Our enthusiastic site guides are available to all visitors without extra cost. Whether you want to wander by yourself, or be given a deeper insight into what you’re discovering, you’re sure to find a warm welcome in this small gem of a museum.