Elliott Mkhize obituary

ELLIOTT MKHIZE  1945 to 2020

The African Art Centre is sad to record the death of artist Elliott Mkhize.  He was born in 1945 and was one of the masters in the medium of hardwire baskets.  He was taught weaving during arts and crafts lessons at primary school and furthered his craft whilst studying in the 1960’s at the Ndaleni Art School in Richmond, which was established by J.W. Grossert in his capacity as Organiser of Art and Crafts education in KwaZulu-Natal.

During working as a night watchman for Delta Security early in the 1970’s and later at the Natal Playhouse, Elliott refined his weaving skills and progressed from covered sticks and knobkerries to finely woven flat bowls with complex geometric designs. Jo Thorpe the director of The African Art Centre encouraged Elliot and promoted his work.  His baskets became highly prized and Elliot was able to become professional in 1979.

The remarkable quality of his baskets is in the absolute regularity of spacing of the elements and the precise repetition of the stitches which are tightly woven.  His shapes are generally fairly small, but each basket took at least 9 hours to produce. He would get up at 3 a.m. and finish at 11 p.m.

He was also a very generous teacher and the African Art Centre initiated the first weaving workshop in January 1997 where Elliott taught his craft to fourteen others at a venue at the BAT Centre. Many of these became master weavers, such as  Albert Ntuli, Zodwa Maphumulo, and Ntombifuthi Magwaza who in turn taught others.

His fine work has been collected nationally and internationally by museums and private collectors.

 Wire basket - Elliott Mkhize