Bennet Zondo

Bennet Zondo was born in Lesotho. When he was old enough, he decided to go to neighbouring South Africa to seek a better life for himself, finding work as a gardener in the Champagne Valley area of KwaZulu-Natal.

In 2002 he took a clay model of a cow giving birth to show Fée Halsted at the Ardmore studio. Like most young rural Zulu and Sotho boys he had learned to model with river clay while tending to his father’s goats and cattle, and the sun-baked figurines were his toys.

Fée immediately recognised his talent and he was quickly accepted into the Ardmore family, with his pieces included in the collections sent to the Christie’s Auction in 2003 and 2004 and again in 2007.

Since then his work has been included in every major international show and is prized across the world.

Over the years, Bennet’s skill has evolved to the level of “creative genius”, says Fée.

His close observation of nature has given him an understanding of both human and animal anatomy and he has a magical ability to bring clay to life.

He expertly captures the nuances of an animal’s movements – the way baboons preen their babies for mites or scratch at an itch or warily taunt a prowling leopard.

The realist painters, Mickey Chonco and Virginia Xaba, often choose to paint his sculptures, resulting in highly collectible artworks that find their homes abroad.

In 2011 at the ‘African Travellers’ exhibition Bennet’s animal-filled makoros were inspired by Operation Noah, launched to rescue wildlife trapped by the rising waters of Lake Kariba when the dam was built in 1950.

He also produced riders alongside fellow-sculptor Alex Sibanda.

In 2012 Bennet excelled with his Endangered Riders series – in particular his wattled and crowned cranes, saddle-billed storks and secretary bird rider series.

His riders were also selected to narrate the vices and virtues of life in South Africa in a major commission called ‘The South African Formula’.

In 2013 Bennet created monkey riders for the ‘Monkeys and Magnolia’ show at Patrick Mavros in London and large crocodile riders for the ‘Just so Crocodile and other Curiosities’ show held at Charles Grieg the Jewellers in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.

In 2014 Bennet worked on new subject matter, antelope, for the ‘Great Herds of Africa’ series, which featured sable and eland riders.

His red Masai elephants were created for Patrick Mavros in Nairobi, Kenya and his leopard and figurative candlesticks were selected for the Korean Biennale, ‘Africa Forms’ in Seoul, South Korea, and by the Southern Guild for the Objects Biennale in New York.

In 2015 Ardmore celebrated 30 years. Alongside sculptor, Petros Gumbi, Bennet produced a limited edition of 30 figurative sculptures of Zulu men and women (storytellers) honouring the works of Ardmore legends, Bonnie Ntshalintshali and Wonderboy Nxumalo.

Exhibitions

2003


Christie's ExhibitionLondon

2004


Christie's AuctionLondon

City Arts CouncilEdinburgh, Scotland

2005


Private ExhibitionSA High Commissioner, Highveld, London

Charles GreigHyde Park, Johannesburg

2006


Amaridian GalleryNew York

Private exhibitionSA High Commissioner, Highveld, London

Everard Reed GalleryJohannesburg

2007


Christie's AuctionLondon

'Cats of the World'Charles Greig, Hyde Park, Johannesburg

2008


Amaridian GalleryNew York

'Wonderful World of Ardmore'Groote Schuur, Cape Town

2009


Ardmore ExhibtionSouth Africa House, London

2010


Pascoe & CoFlorida, United States

NAADA (National Antiques & Decorative Arts) FaireJohannesburg

SOFA (Sculpture Objects & Functional Art)New York, United States

SOFA (Sculpture Objects & Functional Art)Chicago, United States

'Travellers of Africa'Charles Greig, Hyde Park, Johannesburg

Anagama GalleryVersailles, France

2011


'Ivory & Ebony'Cellars-Hohenot, Cape Town

'Earth & Fire'Tremaine Gallery, Hotchkiss School, Connecticut, United States

Le Negresco HotelNice, France

Hallwyl MuseumStockholm, Sweden

NAADA (National Antiques & Decorative Arts) FaireJohannesburg

‘Sprung from the Reeds: Ardmore and Ukhamba'Ardmore Caversham

Eboka Spring CollectionPretoria

AnagamaVersailles, France

2012


International Ceramic ShowEd Pascoe, West Palm Beach, United States

'Ardmore Aviary'Cellars-Hohenot, Cape Town

Les Ceramiques Zouloues ArdmoreParis, France

‘Endangered Animals’ exhibitionPatrick Mavros, London

An African CollectionThe Milk Factory Gallery, Bowral, Australia

NAADA (National Antiques & Decorative Arts) FaireJohannesburg

Fabric and book launch: 'Ardmore, We Are Because of Others'Hermanus, Western Cape

Fabric and book launch: 'Ardmore, We Are Because of Others'Cellars-Hohenot, Cape Town

‘Grand Carnival’ - fabric and book launch: 'Ardmore, We Are Because of Others'Charles Greig, Hyde Park, Johannesburg

Ardmore in LuxembourgLuxembourg

Ardmore in MauritiusPG Mavros, Terre Rouge

Ardmore in BeauneBeaune, France

Ardmore in GenevaGeneva, Switzerland

'Christmas Safari Week'Patrick Mavros, London

A Celebration of Zulu Life and ArtistrySt Louis, United States

Ardmore AustraliaSydney, Australia

2013


Pascoe & CoWest Palm Beach, Florida, United States

‘Monkeys & Magnolias’Patrick Mavros, London

African Trade FairJapan

Fyn Arts FestivalHermanus, Western Cape

Galerie Isabele TurquinParis, France

Journees des CeramiquesParis, France

Ardmore in CanadaRidgefield, Canada

Watershed ArtworksDelta, Canada

NAADA (National Antiques & Decorative Arts) FaireJohannesburg

David Walters and FriendsWilliam Humphreys, Kimberley

Hermanus Fyn Arts FestivalHermanus, Western Cape

Franschoek Litrary FestivalFranschhoek, Western Cape

‘Animal Stories’Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Canada

‘Just So Crocodiles and Other Curiosities’Charles Greig, Hyde Park, Johannesburg

Creel and GowNew York, United States

‘Safari Week’Patrick Mavros, London

Patrick MavrosHarare, Zimbabwe

2014


Pascoe & CoFlorida, United States

‘Great Herds of Africa’Cellars-Hohenot, Cape Town

‘Great Herds of Africa’Patrick Mavros, London

‘Inspired by the Ocean’Hermanus, Western Cape

Objects BiennaleSouthern Guild, New York

‘Birds of Africa’Charles Greig, Hyde Park, Johannesburg

‘Great Herds’Patrick Mavros, Nairobi, Kenya

Africa FormsKorean Biennale, Seoul

‘Birds of Africa’Patrick Mavros, Harare, Zimbabwe

2015


WMODAPascoe & Co, Miami, Florida, United States

‘Animal Botantical’Cellars-Hohenort, Cape Town

2016


‘Kalahari Cats’Cellars-Hohenhort, Cape Town

‘The Great Zambezi’Patrick Mavros, London

'Celebrating the Year of the Monkey'Charles Greig, Hyde Park, Johannesburg

2017


'The Great Zambezi'Cellars-Hohenot, Cape Town