Bonnie Ntshalinthshali

Bonnie Ntshalintshali was born on Ardmore Farm in the Winterton district of KwaZulu-Natal in 1967.

She suffered from polio as a girl and because she was not strong enough for farm labouring, her mother asked Fée Halsted if she would teach her ceramics.

In 1985, she was apprenticed to Fée as a studio assistant. While learning basic ceramic techniques, Bonnie’s natural ability in both sculpture and painting was quickly recognised, and she was encouraged by Fée to pursue her own work.

In 1988 Bonnie received the Corobrik National Ceramic Award; and in 1990 she won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award jointly with Fée.

That same year, 1990, she spent a term at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, studying under Juliet Armstrong and Ian Calder.

In 1991, Standard Bank commissioned a series of original prints from its award-winning artists. Using her own sculpture as inspiration, Bonnie produced a series of original silk-screens which were shown that year at the print festival in Grahamstown.

Bonnie constructed her complex pieces by coiling or building from solid forms. Fired to 1200 degrees, the work was then richly and meticulously decorated.

Many of her sculptures drew inspiration from her mission school education. Biblical tales were retold with simplicity and candour.

A hallmark of Bonnie’s work was her narrative piling of elements or vertical storytelling. Her pieces combined a strong Zulu tradition with her own imaginative response to western imagery.

“Her narrative flows richly,” wrote Achille Bonito Oliva, Director of the Visual Arts Section of the 1993 Venice Biennale, “there are still many stories to be told.”

Bonnie’s work is represented in major collections throughout South Africa, Great Britain and America.

In 1992 she exhibited at the Seville Expo in Spain. In 1993 her work was displayed at the Venice Biennale and in Rome and Amsterdam. In 1995 she exhibited at the South African Biennale in Johannesburg. Her work is also in private collections all over the world.

To the great sadness of the Ardmore family Bonnie died of HIV-related illness in 1999.

As Ardmore’s first artist her legacy has inspired the many other artists who have followed her at Ardmore.

Artwork made by Bonnie

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