Writing Art History Since 2002

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Information Centre Makhado

Samson Mudzunga, a master of drum-maker and sculptor from the Venda region, has achieved both local and international recognition for his art. His Ingoma ritual performance and exhibition, which he stages annually at his home in Dopeni Shanzha, a village in Limpopo province, continues to provoke much interest. The event has grown over the years, lately even attracting art vultures from Europe.This year the Ingoma performance took place at the Information Centre in the small town of Makhado (September 8). The event kicked-off slowly, a school choir singing songs praising Mudzunga’s success while guests waited (three hours) for the MEC for Arts and Culture in Limpopo, Joe Maswanganyi, to arrive. He was double booked, attending a function at University of Venda. Later into the delay, young maidens aged between 8 and 12 entertained onlookers dances, including Tshikona (regarded as Venda’s national dance), Tshigombela (a female dance usually performed by married women) and Domba (python dance). Finally Maswanganyi arrived. Without any apology, Maswanganyi proceeded with schedule, unveiling two large wooden drums produced by Mudzunga. Carved with a male and female figure, the drums can accommodate about five people inside and are lined with colourful VaVenda material. Due to the late arrival of the MEC, Mudzunga was unable to perform the Ingoma ritual.Visibly upset by the delay, angry even, he told me: “If I was doing this by myself it would have gone smoothly. It is not that I am ungrateful but I love things to go accordingly.” Normally, when demonstrating his Ingoma ritual, Mudzunga digs a shallow grave and uses his drum as a coffin. He lies inside the drum pretending to be dead before waking up again. Then he drinks water from the only natural dam in South Africa, Lake Fundudzi. Mudzunga said the ritual performance signals a connection to his ancestors. Previously, his drums have played host to important ceremonies, including his marriage and the renewal of his vows.The bureaucratic incompetence that marred this year’s performance is not the first setback Mudzunga has had to face in his career. In the past he has been arrested and also accused of being a witch. In March 2007, Mudzunga, an artist who draws on elements of his ethnic tradition to project his voice in contemporary art, will present his biggest Ingoma ritual performance yet when he flies to Germany.

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