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Mudzunga's Last Burial rites

By unknown | Feb 20, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Patience Bambalele

Patience Bambalele

Once again local and international art lovers will converge on Venda, Limpopo, for the staging of a cultural exhibition and art performance by veteran sculptor Samson Mudzunga.

The yearly event will take place at his home in Dopeni, Nzhelele, on March 28. Since 1996 when Mudzunga began his cultural arts performance, it has grown to become one of the biggest arts events.

His "burial" art performance has attracted art lovers from as far as Germany, the US and Holland.

Mudzunga, 71, told Sowetan that he was calling it a day in wood carving, hence the exhibition theme is the Last Burial.

Mudzunga, who specialises in making massive wood drums of extraordinary shapes, has become world famous for his "burial" performances. Previously, these drums were reserved for use in traditional ceremonies involving the king. Some of his sought-after drums include human figures carved in wood.

"I have taken a decision not to continue making drums. I feel I am too old now. I don't have the energy that I used to have. However, I will continue doing cultural performances," he said.

When Mudzunga does his "burial" performance, he lies inside the drum that he uses as a coffin, pretending to be dead, and wakes up again.

"When I do my performances, I dress in a traditional Venda outfit and lie in the drum for a few minutes. My wife will beat the drum and open it. I will then emerge and drink water drawn from Lake Fundudzi. This is my only communication with my ancestors, and the performance gives me power and energy."

He staged his first performance in 1996 to celebrate his marriage to his fourth wife but people began accusing him of witchcraft.

He was often arrested for his burial performance. In Venda culture, it is taboo to play dead in a coffin.

Previously, he produced six drums, and most of them were sold in Germany. One of his biggest drums that can accommodate eight people was sold for R150000.


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