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Margaret Epstein Artist’s Statement: “Nguni Kudde”

“Nguni Kudde” the title of this exhibition is taken from the heading on the CD of Kobus Van de Merwe’s Nguni herd, photographed by Nikkie Swanepoel. She gave me a copy to choose images for an exhibition for her gallery ‘DOLOS’ housed in the Gordart Gallery.

For days I steeped myself in looking at hundreds of images of Nguni cattle. The beauty of these animals brought back a memory of me, as a child, sitting on the packed stone ‘Kraal’ wall on my parent’s farm in the Free State, looking down on our cattle. The smells, sounds colour and feeling of wonder came vividly to mind.

I wrote a poem. It guided my choice of images to paint and draw in soft pastel and charcoal and for titles to the work.

My awareness has grown, through the work, of a sense of “an innocence” in nature. Seeing the beauty of each of these individual creatures, touches, I think, on a chord of collective unconscious memory for many South Africans. It is reassuring, because, in this new age of technology and growing materialism, many values have become confused and blurred by the uncertainties of change.

The innocence and beauty of the Nguni Cattle for their own sake, touches a sub conscious memory, a link in a long chain of connection.

Margaret Epstein
Born in 1940, Margaret grew up on remote farms in the platteland where her love for nature was nurtured. She trained as a nurse, married, and when the youngest of her five children went to high school Margaret went to art school. She obtained a National Diploma in Fine Art at Technikon Witwatersrand in 1987.

Margaret trained art guides for the education programmes for the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, ‘Trade Routes’, and the Memorius Intimus Markos contemporary art exhibitions in 1998.

In 1998 Margaret held a solo exhibition sponsored by DACST at the “Worker’s
Library” titled “Sons in the army in the 80’s”, a progressive work continuing work
from her final year at Art School ten years earlier.

In 1999 / 2000 she worked for the “Paper Prayers Aids Awareness” campaign as coordinator of rural woman’s embroidery groups and collaborating artist. She helped curate an exhibition in Berlin for Paper Prayers. A section she titled "The Bush Buck Ridge Collection”, subsequently shown at The Huddleston Memorial Church Hall in Triomph (previously Sophia Town).

From 2004/2006 Margaret completed “Chiverika” (“Working together”), six pastel portrait paintings of Tsonga embroiderers from the Limpopo province.

Over the years she has exhibited drawings, graphic prints, paintings and cloth hangings at various group exhibitions in Gauteng and the Grahamstown National Arts Festival.

Currently Margaret works from her studio at home in Johannesburg. She teaches drawing, and likes to escape the city from time to time by hiking in the Magaliesberg with her husband, Eppy.

More Nguni Artists
Read about the artists, their motivation and inspiration and view their work by clicking on the following links:

Margaret Epstein
Nikki Swan
A man named Charles

Gedig deur Margaret Epstein.  
Poem by Margaret Epstein.

Nguni Kudde.

Nguni kudde
skuif stil soos geeste
oor die aarde se gesig.

Terug en terug
geslag op geslag,
deur Afrika se geskiedenis
lê ‘n verbintenis
tussen mens en bees.
Gereken met eer en trots
as rykdom.

Dit weerspieël ‘n ewige
gevorm en ontbind van patrone.
Saam gesmelt met skaduwees en son,
modder klippertjies,
rotse en korreltjies sand.

In die stilte van hitte,
onder doringboom se takke,
langs water kuile en kranse,
weerkaats die klanke van eeue
se gebulk en geblaas van beeste
en geroep van stemme,
deur ‘n wasem stof.

Uitgestrek oor berge en vlaktes,
lê die spoor van bees en mens.
Hul gemerkde velle en grafte,
die ewige tekens van tydelike besit,
is alleen en verlate,
verloor, verokkel in die veld
en vergete.

Nou staan ons in hierdie tyd en plek
te bewonder,
Nguni bees se lang verlede,
sy onskuld en geduld,
sy kolle vlekke en horing patrone
en intieme familie gesprek.

Onthou die oue bande,
maar maak los vandag se toom
om saam te dwaal in gedagtes
om saam te droom.

Contact Margaret Epstein

Cell: 072 417 1033
Email: cmepstein@worldonline.co.za

Nguni Herds
Translated into English by Margaret Epstein

Nguni herds
Shift silently as spirits.
Across the face of the earth.

Back and back they go,
generation upon generation
through Africa’s history,
forming a bond between man and beast.
Reckoned in honour,
pride and wealth.

To reflect an eternal
forming and dissolving pattern
of shadows and sunlight,
mud, pebbles, rocks
and grains of sand.

In the silence of heat,
under thorn tree branches,
alongside pools of water and cliffs,
across centuries,
the sounds of bellows,
the blowing of cattle breath
and voices calling,
echo through a haze of dust.

Spoor of cattle and men
lie stretched out over plains
and mountains.
Their marked skins and graves,
eternal signs of temporary ownership,
are alone and deserted,
lost, disintegrated in the veld,

Now we stand,
in this time and place,
to admire Nguni Cattle, their distant past,
innocence and patience,
patterns of spots, horns, blemishes
and intimate family conversations.

Remember the old links,
but loosen the bridle
of today’s constraints.
Free your thoughts to wander with us,
to dream.