historical background

The ELC Art and Craft Centre was started in 1962 by Peder and Ulla Gowenius. This arouse out of a committee formed in 1961 in Stockholm, Sweden, for the advancement of African Art and Craft in an oppresive, racist country.

As a result of this initiative Peder and Ulla Gowenius were sent to South Africa to work at the Ceza Mission Hospital, Zululand. Here they met Azaria Mbatha and Allina Khumalo (now Allina Ndebele) both of whom were sent to Sweden for further studies, Allina in 1964 and Azaria in 1966.

During 1962 the ELC Art School Committee was formed in Natal and the ELC Art and Craft Centre was opened at Umpumulo (Mapumulo) in the same year.

The purpose of its programme at this early stage was to set up a Weaving Workshop for local women, who were trained and employed and to prepare women students from all over the country as Art and Craft Advisors in a two year course, who after the training would work with patients in hospitals, run by the Church and overseas Missions. Allina Ndebele was employed as supervisor on her return from Sweden.

In 1967 Azaria Mbatha started the Textile Printing workshop after a year’s training in Sweden at Konstfackskolan, where student Malin Sellmann was his moderator.

On request of the Church the centre also started a one year Domestic Science Course, which was added as a compulsory first year before being accepted to the Art and Craft Advisor Course.

A two year Fine Art course was started in 1967 and succeeded to be registered by the apartheid regime with the powerful assistance of professor Walter Battis of Pretoria University Art School. By that time he was an active Board member, who also ran workshops with the students. Unfortunately the Fine Art School had to be discontinued in 1982, because the overseas sponsors the Church of Sweden Mission and the American Lutheran Mission Church found it impossible to continue funding the school for political pressure to boycott South Africa.