June 2022

Resident artists from Ardmore embody the spirit of ubuntu at Singita

in Community

Resident artists from Ardmore embody the spirit of ubuntu at Singita

With Singita’s first dedicated contemporary African art gallery now open in Singita Sabi Sand and the second in Singita Kruger National Park imminently opening its doors, the art concept that is unfolding across our properties is increasingly creating opportunities for our guests to engage with the depth of Africa’s artistic heritage.

A crucial aspect of this new direction and the spaces we’re developing – beyond serving as a platform to show African art by respected and internationally collected artists – is to partner with galleries, studios, artists and curators who share the same passion for elevating African excellence and conserving its natural heritage.

Collaborating with studios and galleries is one way that Singita's new art concept will allow guests to engage more deeply with contemporary African art, and artists

Born of a shared ethos

As a family-founded business rooted in a deep reverence for Africa’s culture, landscapes and people, Ardmore – a thriving artist community based in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands of South Africa and known primarily for its astounding ceramic works - was a natural choice for collaboration. “Both Singita and Ardmore celebrate and are inspired by Africa’s wilderness and the people who live alongside it. We are also both driven by a desire to develop people’s skills and confidence and similarly strive for excellence in all that we do,” says Fée Halsted, founder and creative director of Ardmore.

The first project born of this partnership is an artist residency, currently underway at Singita Sabi Sand in South Africa, whereby two Ardmore artists will spend time at the property observing the wildlife and working on pieces inspired by the location, to be sold on completion later in the year through the Boutique & Gallery at our South African lodges. All proceeds will go to the Singita Lowveld Trust, whose primary purpose is to collaborate with local communities and in so doing protect and preserve the wilderness for future generations.

“At Singita, we are constantly inspired by the creativity of our continent. Africa is unique and vibrant, and there’s a sense of authenticity at the heart of its many cultures – apparent in every aspect from dance and music to art. It’s really meaningful to collaborate in the name of conservation with a brand like Ardmore, and it enables us to create a window through which international guests can experience the raw beauty of the continent through its people and its art," says Jo Bailes, Singita's Chief Operating Officer.

The artist residency between Ardmore and Singita is part of a new approach to partnering with galleries and curators on engaging art interventions

Ardmore’s artists – often working as sculptor/painter pairs – exemplify the commitment to excellence at the core of both brands. Their dedication to their craft is legendary and it shows in the intricate pieces the studio creates. When choosing which artists would represent Ardmore at the residency, the team looked at both work ethic and the experience it would offer the artists. “Senzo Mazibuko is Ardmore’s first artist, Bonnie Ntshalintshali’s only child. He spent the Christmas break working on a large cheetah sculpture and this self-motivation was deserving of the opportunity,” says Fée.

The second taking part is Mthulisi Ncube, a painter of great skill who came from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe to join Ardmore nine years ago. “He is a valued member of the team and was chosen for his all-round excellence.” 

Sculptor Senzo Mazibuko and painter Mthulisi Ncube were chosen for this residency from among Ardmore's many talented artists

Sculpting from life

The benefit of being able to observe the fauna and flora they’re depicting first-hand adds nuance and depth to the work. Senzo has been working on a pack of life-size African wild dogs and the Ardmore team felt that seeing them in the bush would be valuable. “Senzo is has a great love for dogs – he also sculpted the Singita story of Kara the Belgian Malinois and we felt this visit would hold much meaning,” says Fee.  

In 2021, Ardmore artists Wiseman Mpofu and Victor Mtshali visited Singita Sabi Sand to create works sculpted from life, which will be later sold to raise funds for conservation efforts

This was true too for Ardmore artists Victor Mtshali and Wiseman Mpofu – who travelled previously to Singita in 2021, with the experience of seeing wildlife in their habitat giving their work a life-like quality. “It is wonderful that two additional artists are able to appreciate the bush in all its glory and to realise their own excellence through this experience. It is also special for our artists to interact with Singita’s guides, who are experts in their field too,” says Fée.  

The pieces created by the two Ardmore artists in residence at Singita Sabi Sand, will be sold later in the year to raise funds for crucial conservation programmes

Art uplifting conservation

And just as nature can benefit art, so too can art contribute towards nature. Beyond the literal contributions that these pieces will make towards various conservation projects through their eventual sale, the power of art to communicate can never be understated. “Ardmore prides itself as storytellers and we believe that through art, we can teach people the value of conservation. Art holds great potential to educate and build awareness.”

Fée and the Ardmore team hope that beyond the auction’s ability to spread awareness about the causes Singita and its non-profit partners support, the pieces will highlight Africa’s immense artistic talent. “We'd like guests visiting and seeing the artists at work to be awed by their skill and take this message back to their countries of origin.”

Fée’s hope too, is for guests to witness the harmonious relationship between sculptor and painter – the trust and team effort which results in these masterworks. “Not unlike the symbiotic relationships found in nature. As humans it is important to work as a team in the true spirit of ‘ubuntu’ – ‘we are because of others’.” 

Learn more about this exciting project as it unfolds here >

The relationship between sculptor and painter is one that symbolises our need for collaboration and partnership across the board, and especially in conservation

By Julia Freemantle

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