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Her Early life
Completely self-taught, Mabasa currently resides at the Tshino village in the Vuwani area of Venda, where she runs an art school in which she instructs her students in the art of clay-pot and sculpture making. She began working with clay in 1974 and two years later, in 1976, she became the first Venda woman to work in wood.She received local training.
Noria Mabasa had no formal institutional art training but did receive local training in the making of clay pots she has been a full-time artist since 1976 and much of her work is inspired by dreams. Her career was sparked by a recurring dream of an old woman, which she first had in 1965. The woman showed her how to work in clay; her first clay figures were small and were often given away to local children. At one time, Mabasa modeled statues to stand against the walls of the courtyard of her home, a practice which was shared by other women in the region, but, then, in response to a vision, she later began to make freestanding figures of policemen and Afrikaner pioneers for sale to South African and foreign tourists. Her earliest figures were modeled after clay and wood matano figures used in domba initiation ceremonies. The latter style is very similar to that used by men for wooden statuary. Mabasa initially found recognition on both the national and international art scenes in the 1980s with her ceramic figures painted with enamel paint. Her naturalistic figures are coil-built and fired in an open straw fire. Her current work combines the figurative and the functional; pots often take the shape of the female figure or feature faces.
Mabasa's works deal mostly with traditional issues, particularly those pertaining to women, as well as subjects of Venda mythology and spirituality. Her wooden sculptures The Flood (1994) and Union Buildings (1999) are among her most famous pieces.
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Perryer, Sophie (2004). 10 Years 100 Artists: Art In A Democratic South Africa. Cape Town: Struik. ISBN 1868729877.