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Noria Muelwa Mabasa

Artist 322

Noria Muelwa Mabasa

Ceramic and Wood Carving


Artist Noria Mabasa
Artist Noria Mabasa

Noria Mabasa (born 1934) is a South African sculptor. She specializes in ceramic and wood sculpture. She is inspired and motivated by dreams in which her ancestors speak to her.

Her career began in the early 1970’s when Mabaso began making clay sculptures of Domba figures.

Flood Mozambique, Noria Mabasa
Flood Mozambique, Noria Mabasa

She explains, "I started because of a dream. It took a very long time, because I didn't understand it well. This was in 1965 and in 1974, I started the work".

Mabasa became own of the pioneering sculptor from rural Limpopo and forged a formidable reputation on the local and global stage since the 1970s.

In 1983, she met and was inspired by the Venda sculptor Nelson Makhuba. She exploded woodcarving and through her skill achieved landmark goals through her wood carving becoming the the first black woman, and the first Venda woman in South Africa to become a famous wood carver. She faced and broke many cultural and gender stereotypes through out her career .

 Legend of Hlopeka, Noria Mabasa
Legend of Hlopeka, Noria Mabasa

She has been awarded the Order of the Baobab in Silve. She is a custodian of indigenous knowledge and is a respected teacher who willingly shares her knowledge and skills.

Thematically Noria’s carvings depict Venda mythology, spirituality and embracing the traditional ceremonies.

She depicts the daily life of the women, children and babies in her community . She explores the hardships these women suffered under apartheid. Looking at the violence, loss and displacement, while dealing with themes of race and gender. Her artworks often depict the harsh realities of life in rural areas and work towards social transformation.

 Two Nurses and Eight Soldiers , Noria Mabasa
Two Nurses and Eight Soldiers, Noria Mabasa

She currently resides at the Tshino village in the Vuwani area of Venda, where she runs an art school in which she instructs her students in the art of clay-pot and sculpture making.

Despite her lack of formal art training Mabasa’s natural artistic talent has seen her gain national and international recognition.

She is the one of the only female artists in South Africa to have become globally renowned for wood carvings and continues to be instrumental in preserving and passing on indigenous wisdom through her work.

Sources Consulted


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