Iziko Museums in collaboration with the Campbell Collections of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, proudly presents Iqholo le Afrika: A Centenary Celebration of the Life and Work of Barbara Tyrrell. An event marking her 100th birthday on 15 March 2012 will launch the exhibition at the Iziko South African National Gallery (ISANG) which opens to the public the following day.
This exhibition and re-evaluation of her work by curators Vusi Buthelezi and Yvonne Winters of the Campbell Collections at the University of KwaZulu – Natal, honours this veteran Durban-born artist and author. “Cape Town is her present home and at 100 she needs to be acknowledged while she is still with us,” stated curator, Vusi Buthelezi Through her vision and character, Tyrell is regarded as a heroine in certain rural Kwazulu-Natal communities. In 2008 the President of South Africa affirmed this status by bestowing on her the Order of Ikhamanga Silver (OIS).
A selection of over 150 of her highly decorative and accurate visual recordings of southern African costume will be exhibited. Also on display complementing the strong design aspect of her works will be items of adornment and costume from ISANG’s own African art collections.
Barbara initially trained as a fashion designer. After giving up her career as a lecturer in fashion design at the Port Elizabeth Technical College she acquired a makeshift caravan that gave her independence to roam gypsy-like around Southern Africa and receive the benevolence and hospitality of chiefs and rural communities in her quest to record African costume in situ.
Thus began a lifelong journey of travel, research and recording the spectacular costume traditions of southern Africa. Fluent in isiZulu, she sketched only what her sitters permitted, drawing on her inherited knowledge of African etiquette in recording her subjects, all of whom she knew by name and paid for their time.
The exhibition, Iqholo le Afrika, brings together the beauty and power of the work and relationships forged by Barbara Tyrrell. Celebrated by her sitters and their descendants, re-evaluated and rightfully acknowledged in a post-democratic society, Barbra Tyrell has earned her centenary exhibition at last. What is even more remarkable is that she is still here to celebrate it with us.