Women in Culture - WMODA | Wiener Museum

Women in Culture

The theme of this year’s Museum Week is ‘Women in Culture’ and so we are celebrating the woman behind one of the most popular collections at WMODA, Ardmore Ceramic Art.

Fée Halsted has been nurturing artistic talent in the Natal Midlands of South Africa since 1985 and has trained more than a hundred Zulu and Zimbabwean men and women to create Ardmore’s unique designs featuring African animals and birds. Fée mentors the artists and guides the evolution of each piece of Ardmore ceramic art, which is individually sculpted and hand-painted in exuberant color. Two or three artists work in collaboration to create the artworks in a spirit of cooperation described as ‘Ubuntu’, meaning ‘we are because of others.’ The artists at Ardmore are known in their community as the ‘Isigweli’, the fortunate ones and are encouraged to share their earnings to benefit others.

Fée is a passionate award-winning artist and teacher, who has been recognized for her art as well as her humanitarian work. In 1990, she won the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist award in partnership with her first recruit, Bonnie Ntshalintshali, a young polio victim who could not work in the fields. Sadly, Bonnie and many other Ardmore artists died from HIV-Aids, which decimated the local population, and Fée has battled to fight the pandemic for many years with medication and education.

In 2010, Fée was honoured in New York by Women’s Campaign International for her role in empowering women and improving their lives. WCI recognizes individuals who have made a difference to women’s lives in countries around the world and past honourees include musician John Legend, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  In 2015, Fée was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of KZN in Pietermaritzburg for her contribution to uplifting rural communities.

Fée has visited Florida on many occasions for exhibitions, lectures, and masterclasses. In 2017, she was the guest of honour at the opening of the new Ardmore gallery at WMODA, curated by Louise Irvine. Louise was first introduced to Ardmore in 2008 during one of her frequent visits to South Africa.  Since then she has visited the Ardmore studio in KwaZulu-Natal many times and has a wonderful rapport with Fée whose energy and commitment to Ardmore is highly contagious. Louise is looking forward to catching up with Fée soon in London at her newest exhibit, the The Pride of Africa.

Come and see the Ardmore exhibit at WMODA on Saturday May 18 from 10am to 3pm when we are celebrating International Museum Day with FREE admission.