Thami Unleashes Wood’s Inner Magic

The winner of last year’s inaugural National Craft Awards, Thami Kitty, says that winning the competition generated much interest in his work.

Photo Courtesy of the Africa South Art Initiative

His range of intricately carved walking sticks impressed the judges enough for him to take first prize from among a host of world-class crafters who had entered what is the country’s only national craft competition.

The resident of Khayelitsha in the Western Cape travelled to Mpumalanga’s capital city of Mbombela for the awards evening in mid-2017, where he not only pocketed R50 000 in prize money but was given the chance to network with the who’s in the South African craft sector.

Proudly Xhosa, Thami says his work is ‘all about my culture’. Most of his carvings depict animals – either so realistically rendered that you almost expect to see them breathe, or created with whimsy and humour.

He started carving in 1992 when he was in his early 20s but as a child growing up in rural Transkei without commercially bought toys, he would go to the river to collect clay to make animals. This early dabbling in clay led to drawing and eventually, after school, to wood carving.

Today, Thami’s work has been included in a number of exhibitions.

National Premier Craft Competition 2018

If you think you are another Thami, then submit a photo of your work for consideration.

Crafters have until April 20, 2018, to enter. They need simply take a photo of their entry – next to a matchbox for size of scale, and either email it to or send it to 071 621 3597 via MMS or WhatsApp. There is no entry fee.

Remember to include your name, the town in which you live and your contact details.

Entrants who have not heard from the organisers within 30 days of the closing date must take it as given that they did not make the shortlist for final judging. Sixty entries will be shortlisted and these will form part of an exhibition to be held in Mbombela during the Innibos National Arts Festival from June 24 to 30, 2018.

The finalists must be available to attend the awards evening on Sunday, June 24, at which the winners will be announced.

The winner of the Platinum Award will receive R50 000, the Gold Award winner will pocket R20 000 and the Silver R15 000. There will also be merit awards for the Best Emerging Craftsmen, along with sound financial advice to grow their business. In addition, a Craft Retail Apprenticeship with Tourvest Destination Retail will be bestowed on one of the winners.

Entries in the disciplines of Ceramics, Beadwork, Wirework, Wood, Jewellery, Paper, Fabric Painting and Printing, Quilting, Leatherwork, Pewter, Glasswork, Embroidery and Mixed Media are invited.

The judges

A panel of judges with a passion for developing South Africa’s creative talent has been convened, including: Harrie Siertsema (Delagoa Trading, collector and art patron), Wendy Goldblatt (internationally-known ceramist), Maureen Waldeck (Brand Manager for Tourvest Destination Retail’s stores and retail brands and a seasoned retailer with an exceptional eye for merchandise), Joseph Mathe (National Department of Arts and Culture: Responsible for the development of crafts), Thabo Manetsi (Director: Western and Northern Cape provinces - Leading in Heritage Development) and Fran Stewart (Craft + Design Institute’s Market Support Programme Manager).

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