One of my favorite afternoons was the Monday we spent in Durban. Our guide, Shiney, is an amazing woman from London who has spent the last 30+ years of her life in South Africa. She has a love for the people and a passion for the country that are both sincere and contagious.
On this day she was able to arrange for us to take a tour of a private museum as well as have lunch at a small adjacent restaurant.. The Phansi Museum is the result of a young couple’s passion for the South African native costumes ….. of course we consider them “costumes” today, but they used to be simply their everyday clothing. The status of every person in the village – and this was true of all the different tribes – could be read by what they wore or by what they carried. The husband is an architect and by nature is drawn to the colors and shapes and structures of these pieces …….. the wife ( sadly passing some ten years ago) was a ceramicist and collected the pottery and other arts. Together they traveled and traded and listened to the stories……...they recorded the legends and the traditions and – luckily for us (and everyone) – have opened a private museum in an idyllic, quiet residential neighborhood surrounded by a few artists’ studios. The most wonderful, engaging , native women, Phumzile Nkosi is the curator and acted as our docent…..I could have easily and happily spent twice the amount of time there.!! She made the traditions sound so colorful and meaningful …….. personally, I looked down at my khakis and beige shirt and thought “what a bland, homogeneous society we have become.
Before we began the tour , we had a tasty vegetarian lunch awaiting us and , as our guide would say “The ancestors were with us” because the collector himself, Paul Mikula, just happened to stop in and he sat with us and explained how it all began and where he hopes it all will go – Amazing !
The photos are wonderful – and if you would like more information on this wonderful collection – as part of it does travel - here is the info: