The wall surrounding Noria Mabasa’s house is a structure of red stained mud with several clay figures emerging out of it. The gate is flanked by two life-sized women dressed in traditional clothing, looking into a dung-covered courtyard. There is a traditional hut that is used as a bed and breakfast facility, a small gallery and a western style house (where Noria lives).
Her education as an artist is mythical, as she has received her tuition from the realms of dreams. This started in 1965. In Noria’s own words: “I started because of a dream. It took a very long time, because I did not understand it well. This old lady was teaching me (through dreams) about things that did not seem very important until I started learning about it. This was in 1965 and in 1974, I started the work”.
Working mainly in clay, Noria found recognition within the national and international art scene in the 1980s with pottery figures painted with enamel paint. Nowadays her clay work combines the figurative and the functional in a more earthy way; pots in the shape of the female body or characterised faces, strongly showing the command she has over the medium.
Wood carving started in 1976 inspired by her dreams, an ongoing experience that stretches beyond the psychology of the subconscious into the spiritual – the ancestral.
Ancestry plays an important part in Noria’s tribal heritage. The Ancestors are said to be people close to the individual. They put matters in front of God, much in the same way as a Catholic would go to a priest and tell him of something and the priest will pray to God. They are a bridge, a go-between. “We trust in the ancestors, because we know that when we live, it is the Spirit of God that lives. We are the meat made from this earth. The ancestors bring us close to God”.
From her dreams, Noria draws her power to create. From here she gets the physical strength that has allowed her to produce art for the past 25 years.
Her courage to follow her spirit has led her to be both accepted and acclaimed as a woman carver in an art form that traditionally belongs to men. She is a woman of high degree within her community and has been supported by fellow artists such as Nelson Mukhuba (1925 – 1987) who, at the advent of Noria’s carving career said: “I want to go show you Noria. That woman carves! It is the first time a woman carves here. I want to show everybody.”