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For as long as she can remember, Lindiwe Xaba, 31, has dreamt of being a sought-after artist.
Her dream came true when she won the Start the Nivea Art Award 2007.
The winners were announced at an awards ceremony held at the KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts (KZNSA) Gallery, Durban, last Tuesday.
Xaba, a mother of five, walked off with R20000.
She also automatically qualified for a solo exhibition at the gallery.
She lives in Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, where she works at the world-renowned Ardmore Art Centre creating ceramics, drawings and glazing.
Born in Winterton, KwaZulu-Natal, where she grew up under the care of her grandparents, she fell in love with drawing from a young age. Xaba was working at Ardmore when her boss saw some of her drawings and recognised her unique talent.
She was encouraged to take classes at Ardmore, where she was instructed in ceramic art and painting for a year.
An excited Xaba said she was completely overwhelmed by the recognition that comes with the Start the Nivea Art Award.
"This is the start of a successful path for me in the arts, a dream come true. Now my work can be taken seriously and I can gain more exposure," she said.
For the competition Xaba created a unique acrylic on canvas titled Izithandani - Lovers.
"It is about love. It touches on the theme of abuse and how women can be taken for granted," she said.
Brenton Maart, the new director of the KZNSA Gallery, said: "Xaba's work indicates maturity and sensitivity. Her approach to colour, medium, subject matter, symbolism and composition is fresh and indicates a new kind of African contemporary art."
Xaba recalled that she was forced to leave school in Standard Five after the death of her father and grandparents.
To survive she did piece-meal jobs until, at 17, she got a job at the Ardmore Art Centre.
The win has revived her dream of becoming a great artist and has also boosted her confidence in her own talent.
"I want to start my own business and make my artwork count. The work I do here is sold in London and we get 10percent of what we sell," she said.
The competition is one of the successful initiatives born through the successful partnership between KZNSA Gallery and Beiersdorf.
Artists from throughout KwaZulu-Natal were invited to enter the competition, now in its third year.
The 25 finalists were selected in March by a panel of six highly distinguished judges.
The finalists each received R1200 from Beiersdorf to create a unique artwork in three months, in time for the exhibition.
The exhibition runs at the KZNSA Gallery until the end this month.