Tamar Mason

Tamar Mason was born in Johannesburg in 1966. Mason matriculated from Woodmead High School and went on to drop out of Wits University, completing her academic career writing her final BA exams (Unisa) in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana under the careful eye of a dominee.

Mason’s primary schooling was at The Waldorf School in Johannesburg where she was taught woodwork, sewing and art in abundance. In grade two her class planted a vegetable patch and made butter by hand and baked bread in a wood oven. This set the course. After six miserable months of full-time university, she taught art at St Marks College in Jane Furse. This was followed by a year in Italy studying art and jewellery design.

In 1988 Mason set out to work in rural areas with women, focusing on crafts and business skills, moving to Botswana where she lived in Mochudi for three years followed by a year at The Kuru Art Project in D’kar. She returned to South Africa in 1992 and spent the next ten years working with community projects all over South Africa and Namibia, tending to a tiny veggie patch in Bez Valley when time allowed.

In 1996 she set up her ceramic studio at The Bag Factory Artists Studios and started to exhibit her work in group shows and to work on commissions. Primary school stitching skills were resuscitated with being asked to be part of the team that put together a 35 x 3.2m high fabric panel for the Mpumalanga Legislature. From this developed Mason’s work on fabric which dominates most of the artwork that she currently produces.

In 1997 she gave birth to Simon and in 2000 to Maru. Their arrival was the trigger that led to Mason and her partner Mark Attwood leaving Johannesburg in favour of a beautiful valley outside of White River in Mpumalanga in 2003. Here they set up The Artists’ Press in a purpose built studio and set about planting a food forest.

Mason assists Attwood in the running of The Artists’ Press, focusing on marketing and this website.

Tamar Mason Video on Embroidery and Beadwork

Tamar Mason Sculpture

Tamar Mason Architectural Commissions

Who are we? Mark Attwood

Who are we? Jacky Tsila

New Editions from The Artists' Press

Follow Tamar Mason on Instagram

Title: Mashishing
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 198 x 118 cm
SOLD


Title: Gxara
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 90 x 217 cm
Price: Available through the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery (London)




"I have focused my recent work on neglected rural areas in southern Africa. These are places with rich historical and cultural significance but where basic government services are failing or are completely lacking. These works refer to two of these places — Mashishing, where I have walked through the burnt winter veld, and the Gxara River, where I have waded through the clear water of the river mouth.  I am exploring the permanent record that societies leave on the land, in paradox with the transience of human lives in these landscapes. 

In the SePedi language, Mashishing is a place name derived from the word for good grazing grass, it has replaced the colonial name of Lydenburg.  At Mashishing there are hundreds of mostly geometric line engravings on the rock surfaces. Research indicates that these marks were made by the Koni people in the mid-1650s. The Koni were later assimilated into and displaced by the Pedi. For generations, shadows have been cast on these stones as people have been forcibly removed by conflict, colonialism, and apartheid and have later returned to Mashishing. Each time, the landscape leaves a mark on them just as they leave a mark on the landscape, the engraved lines linking the experience of now with then.

The Gxara River is where a young woman, Nongqawuse experienced a revelation that led to the Xhosa Cattle-Killing of 1856-7. Her millenarian vision predicted that all Europeans would be driven back into the sea if the Xhosa killed all their cattle and stopped cultivation. Millenarian movements, often a feature of societies that have been profoundly disrupted by colonialism, center around a radical apocalyptic vision and a return to plenty and pre-colonial power. Nongqawuse’s vision led to an estimated 350 000 cattle being killed and a famine that caused the deaths of roughly 70 000 people. The stress on the environment by the extractive reaches of colonialism is at the root of this tragedy. In a world that is still dominated by patriarchy, I am interested in the massive effect that young women’s voices can have on the course of history and how this ripples into the present fabric of the climate crisis". Tamar Mason 2022


Tamar Mason embroidery on black fabric duiker skull and red basin with soap bar

Title: Mpunzi Kop
Medium: Embroidery on fabric
Size: 144 x 71cm
SOLD


Title: A khata cloth for Leah and Desmond Tutu
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 76 x 76cm
SOLD




"The khata symbolizes purity and compassion and is given to honoured people by Tibetan Buddhists. It is usually made out of white fabric. Desmond Tutu has been fearless in questioning the South African government’s bias against the Dalai Lama. Both the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu have been awarded Nobel Peace Prizes. The washing peg refers to the establishment of the South African Domestic Workers Association (SADWA) of which Leah Tutu was a founder. Desmond Tutu was the first Black Archbishop of Cape Town, the highest position within the Anglican Church in South Africa. St Georges Cathedral was his base; hence St George slaying the dragon, a metaphor that  I selected to represent Apartheid. My reference was an image from a church in Lalibela, Ethiopia. The two hands are the Tutu’s who married in 1955.  Desmond Tutu was instrumental in transitioning South Africa to democracy and this is symbolised by Leah’s hand casting a vote. The hand holding the egg is a symbol of power inspired by West African fabrics. Hold on to power too tightly and the egg will break, hold on loosely and the egg will break. Desmond Tutu has succeeded in holding power in balance. The landscape image refers to the gold mine dumps that surround the childhood homes of both Leah and Desmond Tutu. The hands across the chest are Desmond Tutu’s wearing his Anglican ring, cross and gown. I chose to focus on hands as they are what humans use to create, build, and communicate with". Tamar Mason


Title: Grace Unathi
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 88 x 215 cm
Price: SOLD

Detail: Grace Unathi (hand holding egg)
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric

Detail: Grace Unathi (Barberton Valley)
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric

Title: Detachment
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 88 x 214 cm
SOLD

Detail: Detachment (Spiral Galaxy)
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric

Title: My mtDNA (LOa1b)
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 88 x 214 cm
Price: Available through the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery (London)


Detail: My mtDNA LOa1b(new leaves)
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric

Title: Portrait of Hanneke Benadé
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 103 x 115 cm
Price: Commission

Detail: Hanneke Benadé portrait

Title: South African landscape (unstretched)
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 2 x 1.5 m
Price: Commission

Detail: South African landscape

Detail: South African landscape

Title: Western Cape landscape (unstretched)
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 2.3 x 2.5 m
Price: Commission

Detail: Western Cape landscape

Detail: Western Cape landscape

Title: Bokamoso Patience
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 88 x 214 cm
SOLD

Detail: Bokamoso Patience
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric

Title: Simon Seretse
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 80 x 214 cm
Price: NFS

Detail: Simon Seretse
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric

Title: Maru Francis
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric
Size: 80 x 214 cm
Price: NFS

Detail: Maru Francis
Medium: Embroidery and beadwork on fabric

Title: Origins (AIDS advocacy project, Artist Proof Studio, unstretched)
Medium: Embroidery, printing ink and beadwork on fabric
Size: 105 x 210 cm
Price: Commission

Detail: Origins


Detail: Origins


Detail: Origins

Title: Graham Beck Winery, Franschhoek
Medium: Embroidery and bead work on fabric
Size: 6 x 2.5 m
Price: Commission

Detail: Graham Beck Winery, Franschhoek

The Kosikona women at the press launch of The Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand. The women were technical assistants on the panels
Tamar Mason was commissioned to design and make eleven panels (each 4.5 x 2 m)depicting the history of the San, using rock art and contemporary San art references. Apologies for the poor quality of these images, lighting for good photography is difficult in the room.

The second panel "Traditional Life"
Medium: Embroidery, fabric paint and beadwork on fabric
Size: 4.5 x 2 m (each panel, total of 11)
Price: Commission

Panel 1

Panels 6 - 9

Panel 11

Mpumalanga Legislature Assembly Chamber interior. This work was commissioned by Meyer Pienaar Architects in 1998. Tamar Mason was one of the principal designers and technical skills trainer for the sixty rural women who put the work together. The panels tell the story of the history of the Mpumalanga province and measure 35 m long by 3.5 m high. They are worked onto a base of worsted fabric with beads, wire work, applique and embroidery.

The first four panels (first signs of life, fauna, stone age, iron age)

Panels 5 to 8 (Arab trade, Mfecane, Maputo trading, arrival of the Boers, Orighstad and establishment of Lydenburg)

Panels 9-11 (Botshabelo, Emanzana, Pilgrims Rest gold, Boer war and Pedi  war).

Panels 14-16 (Ndebele wars, establishment of railroad, Rinderpest/AIDS, big five, Swazi culture, citrus, trade)

Panels 17-20 (Boer guerilla fighters, concentration camps, commercial farming, unions, township v suburban life, mothers bidding farewell to their children leaving to join liberation forces, Machel and Botha at the Nkomati Accord).

Panel 22-24 (political rallies, 1994 elections, freedom celebrations, Mbuzini Machel monument)

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