Pitika Ntuli’ hailed for his bone exhibition at National Arts Festival

Pitika Ntuli’s 45 bone sculpture exhibition receives high praise at the Virtual National Arts Festival.

South African sculptor, poet and writer Pitika Ntuli’s “Sangoma” bone sculptures culminate in “highest artistic achievement”.

The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, found Pitika Ntuli’s 45 bone sculptures exhibition "Azibuyele Emasisweni", which translates to "Return to the Source" to be “one of highest of artistic achievements in the history of solo exhibitions in our country.”


During the virtual opening of the exhibition, as part of the National Arts Festival, Pandor suggested that “the uniqueness of Ntuli’s work arises from a deep pool of indigenous knowledge and wisdom and centuries-old cultural tradition."

She added: “This exhibition comes at the right time. The emphasis on healing has particular significance in the midst of the Covid pandemic and the uncertainty it has brought with it, which have given us an opportunity to reflect on our value systems and what we call the normal way of doing things.” 

As the title of the exhibition suggests, the 78-year-old artists is returning to ‘the source’ of his expression.  In turn, he is encouraging society to return to the ‘source’ of African spiritualism and knowledge as the means of resolving corruption, greed, slavery and poverty. 

Commenting on the exhibition, Ntuli said: “Bones have a special potency and subtle spiritual energies, their endurance is legendary. We know who we are, and where we come from as a result of studying bone fossils. Bones are the evidence that we were alive 3.5 million years ago, and they are carriers of our memories."

Ntuli’s chosen material, animal bones, and approach, that of a sangoma allowing the material to guide him, invokes ancient African indigenous and spiritual knowledge systems. 

However, the viewer’s engagement with the sculptures is virtual on a multi-media platform, where images are seamlessly paired with works produced by some of South Africa’s most prominent cultural producers.

PN3PregnanciesoftheMind - Pitika Ntuli’ hailed for his bone exhibition at National Arts Festival
In, I carry my War Feather, the award-winning Pikita Nutli coaxes out a human face from animal bones. This is one of 45 sculptures, paired with praise-songs, on the virtual exhibition Azibuyele Emasisweni, (Return to the Source). Picture: Supplied
The words and voices of  Sibongile Khumalo, Simphiwe Dana, Zolani Mahola, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Gcina Mhlophe, Napo Masheane and other respected musicians, poets and writers, can be heard and read while viewing wrap-around footage exploring the details of the haunting animal bone sculptures. 

The unique experience makes for an unforgettable visual and audio experience. First, of its kind, this viewing experience is produced by the Melrose gallery, Ntuli and curator Ruzy Rusike.

The 80-year-old artist’s work has been exhibited in many countries such as Europe and the US and has organised numerous international art and cultural events in Britain. His sculptures are in several private collections worldwide, including that of Paul Simon, Phuthuma Nhleko, and Edward and Irene Akufo-Addo.


Azibuyele Emasisweni (Return to the Source) will run until August 2. The exhibition can be viewed here.

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