Unusual exhibition recalls a gentler era with time for tea and sympathy

Louise Liebenberg

THE ritual of sitting down to a satisfying cuppa is one that must surely form the foundation of many friendships.

Two Nelson Mandela Bay artists and friends, Vilia Offerman and Louise Eksteen, have themselves shared many such moments. And, inspired by Vilia’s impressive collection of miniature teapots from around the world, the two came up with a fun concept for a joint exhibition.

A Celebration of Teapots opens at the Alliance Francaise at 17 Mackay Street, Richmond Hill, next Saturday.

A well- known painter and former ceramicist, Vilia used innovative techniques and materials to produce collages to the teapot theme. These include intricate, hand-painted details and paper of various textures and colours. Louise, who loves photo- graphy, used digital techniques for her 25 images.

“I’ve been collecting miniature teapots for 30 years and have 80 of them. Each has a story,” said Vilia. “Some were bought on trips overseas, including to China and Japan (like an unusual, pumpkin-shaped one in terracotta); others were antique or museum shop finds, or gifts from family and friends.

“My most treasured one is a pretty pink teapot my eldest daughter bought while travelling in Greece in her 20s. She was on a tight budget and slept on the roof of a building for two nights just to be able to buy it for me.”

Others were created by well-known ceramicists like Gillian Bickell, Jerice Doeg and Lesley-Ann Hoets.

The teapots depicted in the works represented a “bygone era, when life moved at a gentler pace”, Velia and Louise said.

“Teatime was a space set aside, often in the form of a ritual to be savoured. Examples are the tea ceremony in Japan and British high tea at the end of the day.

“Cellphones hadn’t been invented and no one was sending SMSes under the table while endeavouring to take part in a conversation or, worse yet, taking a call and leaving a friend or spouse in mid-sentence.

“Let’s bring back this comforting space – we all need tea and sympathy from time to time.”

A Celebration of Teapots opens with a tea party at the Alliance Francaise at 11am next Saturday. It may be viewed on week days until November 23. Works are available for purchase.

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