Betty Ntshingila

On leaving school, she worked as a domestic worker on a farm in the Champagne Valley, close to where the original Ardmore ‘Berg studio was started by Fée Halsted in the 1980s. She then worked building mud and daub houses near the town of Estcourt.

In 2002, Betty was introduced to Ardmore by sculptor, Nhlanhla Nsundwane, as a way to support her family of six children. She began her sculpting career in the ‘Berg studio under his mentorship.

Artwork made by Betty

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Betty's Story

Betty was born in 1962 in Loskop, Emangweni, in KwaZulu-Natal.

On leaving school, she worked as a domestic worker on a farm in the Champagne Valley, close to where the original Ardmore ‘Berg studio was started by Fée Halsted in the 1980s. She then worked building mud and daub houses near the town of Estcourt.

In 2002, Betty was introduced to Ardmore by sculptor, Nhlanhla Nsundwane, as a way to support her family of six children. She began her sculpting career in the ‘Berg studio under his mentorship.

When this studio closed in 2009, Betty was devastated. The following year she moved to the studio at Caversham and rejoined her Ardmore family.

Betty’s skills as a female sculptor are unusual at Ardmore, yet she has found her niche and excelled in the traditionally male-dominated sculpture studio.

Her caring and nurturing instincts are reflected in her work and her maternal traits are seen in her choice of subject matter: birds and bees all busy with life’s chores, building nests, laying eggs and feeding their offspring.

In May 2011, Betty accompanied Fée and painter, Punch Shabalala,to a symposium entitled Clay: The Art of Earth & Fire, at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, United States, where her talent was applauded. This trip proved to be a life-changing experience for Betty.

She says: “I am happy to be at Ardmore. It gives me fresh ideas every day and now I have experience in my art… I went to the USA and I was inspired by what I saw there.”

In 2012 Betty excelled with her work for ‘The Ardmore Aviary’ exhibition at the Cellars-Hohenhort in Cape Town.

Her monkey tureen with baby was one of Fée’s favourites at the ‘Monkey’s and Magnolia’ exhibition at Patrick Mavros, London.

Later that same year Betty’s bird sculptures were selected to narrate the vices and virtues of life in South Africa in a major commission called ‘The South African Formula’.

One was a weaver-bird building its nest used as a metaphor for the Delivery of Promise. The second, a crow with a jewelled ring in its beak and figures on its back, illustrated a mugging as a symbol of the problem of theft in South Africa.

In 2013, Betty’s talented son, Sibusiso, rejoined the studio and Betty continued to excel in her sculpting.

Towards the end of that year she worked closely alongside Petros Gumbi and created some wonderful wildebeest riders in preparation for the ‘Great Herds’ show in February 2014.

In the September of that year Betty’s weaver bird sculptures and carved bird teacups gained great attention at the ‘Birds of Africa’ show at Charles Greig Jewellers in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, as well as her large wattled crane tureen, painted by Wiseman Sithole (which found a home in Boston with collector Larry Singer).