Woza Moya is proud to showcase the work of Lobolile Ximba, a traditional Zulu doll-maker, as our artist of the month for February 2023. Her work is available in our shops on an ongoing basis.
Lobolile was born in 1953 and she learnt her craft from her mother as a way of making a living to feed their large family. She, in turn, has taught this doll-making skill to her own daughters and other crafters in the area.
Lobolile continues to live, where she was born, in the rural inland region of Msinga in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Msinga is a prodominately rural area located in deep gorges of the Tugela and Buffalo Rivers with a rugged and beautiful landscape. As a result of the terrain of the land, Msinga is very isolated from other areas.
The people living in Msinga are mainly Zulu-speaking and live in traditional homesteads and rondavels often engaging in subsistance farming. Lack of infrastructure and basic services, unemployment and extreme poverty makes it a very difficult place to live.
Tugela Ferry, Pomeroy and Keate’s Drift are the 3 main peri-urban areas in Msinga but do not provide enough employment opportunities or services for the population. Many people from the area are forced to seek employment in the larger nearby towns of Greytown, Dundee and Kranskop.
The Msinga area has potential from a tourist perspective. There are historic sites from the Anglo-Zulu war and the spectacular scenery and topography are great for activities like hiking, fishing and bird-watching. The local communities have a rich cultural heritage and produce traditional Zulu arts, crafts and music which add to the tourist experience.
Originally Zulu dolls were made as toys for young children using grass, clay and other materials found in nature. With the introduction of new materials in the early 20th century the Zulu dolls evolved into a form a Zulu cultural art. Materials like wool, fabric, wire and beads gave the crafters more ways to express their creativity and dolls become more intricate and ornate.
The art of Zulu doll-making continues today. It is way for Zulu women to earn an income, express their creativity and to keep their cultural heritage alive. The dolls are valued for their beauty and craftmanship and are often sold as collectables and souvenirs.
Lobolile’s Zulu dolls are usually beaded fabric standing figures attached to a wooden base. The dolls are dressed in traditional Zulu attire and decorated in beadwork to represent the clothing worn by the Msinga women.
Lobolile has been recognised for her outstanding craftmanship and has received the following awards:
Gold Medal at the FNB Vita Craft Now Awards (2002)
Brett Kebble Top Craftsperson Award (2004)
Her work is displayed in museums around the world.
Lobolile was one of the first participants in the Siyazama project in 2002. The Siyazama project (isiZulu for “we are trying”) was initiated by Kate Wells as a way for educators and activists to increase AIDS awareness in rural KZN communities. By engaging with female artists using creative workshops and traditional artistic techniques they were able to engage more deeply about health and HIV concerns.
“When I first came to Siyazama I knew nothing about AIDS but now I am able to teach others about it.” – Lobolile Ximba
COVID has had a devasting effect on the local crafters in South Africa. The resulting temporary ban on international travel stopped tourists from visiting the country which has had direct impact on the sale of local crafts. While we are grateful that tourists are visiting South Africa again craft sales are not yet back to pre-COVID levels.
Lobolile is still making dolls in her community although COVID has taken a very heavy toll on her business.
Woza Moya aims to help Lobolile and other artists like her to reach a wider audience.
Siyazama Art, AIDS and Education in South Africa. Edited by: Kate Wells , Marsha MacDowell, C. Kurt Dewhurst, Marit Dewhurst
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