THE PILLAY BROTHERS
Since creativity is an innate ability, the lack of formal learning did not mean that there were no Indian artists in the early days.The twin brothers Lutchman and Ramsamy Pillay- probably born in the early1900’s to parents indentured at the Muckle Neuk Sugar Estate, were self- taught artists. Lutchman was well known for the painting of his mother Lutchmy (above) and a portrait of Sir Srinivasa Sastri,(see featured image) which was exhibited in the Greenacres Department store in Durban for almost a year. This painting is now part of the collection at the Documentation Center at UKZN.
Ramsamy (known as M.R.) worked as a cartoonist for the The Natal Witness during the 1930’s, sadly I have not been able to find any of his artworks. One example of his work that has survived is the water colour that he painted of the Swami Shankeranand. The swami is credited as a key figure in forming the Hindu Maha Sabha in 1912.
Ebrahim Badsha, taught himself to draw and do graphic design at an early age. In the 1950s he was one of the founders of the Bantu Indian Coloured Art Association, a community-based art organisation which met at the YMCA in Beatrice Street (Durban). Art classes were run by artists Scott MacNab and Nils Solberg. Although Badsha was largely excluded from South African art history, he and his peers had great influence on the black artists of the 1960s. He was a close friend of Dumile Feni who lived in his house for several months in 1966 while he was preparing for an exhibition in Durban. Feni is regarded as one of South Africa’s most important artists.
Badsha painted a portrait of Chief Albert Luthuli who sat for him during the time that Luthuli was banned. Regrettably, this painting and much of his other work has since gone missing. The painting above – Passage Way Douglas Lane shows the entrance to Badsha’s home in Douglas Lane near Grey Street. This area was also known as the Casbah and many writers, musicians and other colourful characters later emerged from here.
His son Omar Badsha is an acclaimed photographer whose 2010 exhibition ‘Under the Umdoni Tree’ showcased both his and his late father’s work.
Vahed, Desai & Waentjen. Many Lives.