A Centenary Celebration: Barbara Tyrrell

Press release:

A Centenary Celebration of the Life and Work of Barbara Tyrrell will be on display at the Iziko South African National Gallery from 16 March to 8 July.

Iziko Museums in collaboration with the Campbell Collections of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, proudly presents Iqholo le Afrika (Her African Pride): 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.

http://www.artlink.co.za/news_article.htm?contentID=29484 /



Quote  from Yvonne Winters at the Campbell collections:

‘Barbara Tyrrell is known internationally for her detailed costume studies of the traditional dress of the indigenous peoples of southern Africa.

Barbara Eleanor Harcourt Tyrrell was born on March 15th 1912 in Durban. Her father, who died while she was a small child, had occupied the post of assistant magistrate and later interpreter in the Department of Native Affairs and had been stationed in various Natal towns, his final posting being to Eshowe, Zululand. Tyrrell’s grandfather was Frederick Fynney, interpreter and companion to the Zulu king Cetshwayo during the latter’s visit to Queen Victoria in 1882.Barbara Tyrrell is known internationally for her detailed costume studies of the traditional dress of the indigenous peoples of southern Africa.

A striking feature of Tyrrell’s work as artist-recorder is her fascination with her sitters, who are portrayed as individuals in their own right, the traditional dress enhancing each sitter’s personhood. This enthralment she attributes to her father’s influence in the context of a childhood spent in an environment where Zulu tradition was still the norm in the early decades of the 20th century, “…

I became objectively aware of the Zulus of some unfathomable quality… His (the Zulu’s) dress was different, his dances different and he lived a different lifestyle. He was part of our scene, an exciting part, especially when the village had any sort of outdoor celebration. The Zulus then would have their beef and their beer and round off the day with a full-dress ‘war dance’.”

See for more http://campbell.ukzn.ac.za/?q=node/55   Around 250 original watercolour costume studies held in the Campbell Collections and 700 drawings.

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