In today's 'The Times' Tuesday 22 September 2015


How does one grow the permanent collection of an art museum? For the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg, one way is through its annual Fabulous Picture Show.


    Organised by the Friends of the Tatham Art Gallery, which has been actively assisting the gallery with its acquisitions for 30 years, the end-of-year auction of works donated by artists has grown in leaps and bounds since first conceived of seven years ago.

    The work donated is from across the board, says Bryony Clark, assistant director of the gallery - "from keen amateurs to those with international reputations".

    Hussein Salim and Raja Oshi fall in the latter category. The Sudanese husband and wife, who found refuge in South Africa 11 years ago, have successfully exhibited in France, England, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Italy.

    Both have works on permanent display at galleries in these countries, and one of Salim's works was bought by Sir Elton John.

    Salim and Oshi have happily donated an original artwork to the Tatham auction every year since the founding of the Fabulous Picture Show.

    Says Clark: "We want local artists to donate, but we are also trying to attract established artists from other provinces. Artists are very willing. It's good for them to donate to a public institution and, of course, it is good for us. The highest seller last year was artist Vuli Nyoni, a lecturer in the Department of Visual Art at the University of Stellenbosch."

    Salim's expansive, symbolic, colourful oils have a ready audience. In 2011 it was his work that raised the most money for Friends of the Tatham Art Gallery.

    "Two families were fighting over my work," he says, laughing. "The next day the loser visited me early in the morning and asked me to do a similar piece."

    In 2013, it was Oshi's turn to be the best seller. Her hauntingly beautiful portrayals of human tragedy speak to her audience in the most visceral way.

    "I connect with the problems of life in my work. Maybe that is why people like it - it's the emotion."

    Their styles are very different. "We do sit together and discuss what each of us is painting," says Oshi. "We open our minds for each other."

    The two met at art college in Sudan and have been together ever since.

    "She is my inspiration," says Salim.

    This year, he is donating four works to the Tatham auction.

    "For me, artists must know how to classify their works," he says. "I do commercial work to put food on the table; sometimes I paint for myself and I don't care who likes it; and to be in a competition is something different again.

    "But to donate something? This is truly a tough challenge. You have to give yourself as a person. Not because we want people to fight over it, but when I do my best and they get sold and the money goes to the gallery, I feel like a winner."

    Give a lot

    Artists around the country are encouraged to donate up to three original A4 artworks to FOTAG. The date for final submissions is Saturday October 3. The Fabulous Picture Show auction takes place on Friday November 20. All the works will be on view daily from Tuesday November 17 to Friday November 20. To donate or for more information contact Vimla Moodley on 033-392-2813.