MOIFA | July 2024

Stories in the Sand: Storytelling, Objects, and kastom in Vanuatu

In July 2025, the Gallery of Conscience will showcase an exhibition about Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation, marking MOIFA's first exhibition about Oceania since 1960. The exhibition will highlight sand–drawing stories, a tradition where storytellers create illustrations in sand, ash, or soil while narrating or singing stories. These stories are usually about folklore, historic events, and kastom (traditional knowledge).

The project is a collaboration between the Museum of International Folk Art and the Vanuatu Cultural Center and National Museum. In addition to the exhibition, the project involves research on MOIFA’s collection from Vanuatu. This July, three members of the Vanuatu team will be on-site to work with MOIFA staff on the exhibition and in collections.

By collaborating with Indigenous cultural experts, we aim to improve our collections records and deepen our understanding of these items and produce an engaging and exciting exhibition.

Museum guide Edgar Hinge performs a sand-drawing story at the Vanuatu Cultural Center and National Museum, Port Vila, Vanuatu. 2023. Photo by Felicia Katz-Harris

Sand-drawing story by Edgar Hinge at the Vanuatu Cultural Center and National Museum, Port Vila, Vanuatu. 2023. Photo by Felicia Katz-Harris

Curator Kaitip Kami in collections storage at the Vanuatu Cultural Center and national Museum, Port Vila, Vanuatu, 2023. Photo by Felicia Katz-Harris.

Nobuhle Maphumulo: Weaving Zulu Heritage and Empowerment Through Telephone Wire Art

Nobuhle Maphumulo is an inspiring young artist from Siyanda, South Africa, whose work will be featured at this year’s 20th anniversary International Folk Art Market in the Railyard as well as in the upcoming exhibition at the Museum of International Folk Art, iNgqikithi yokuPhica / Weaving Meanings: Telephone Wire Art from South Africa opening November 17.

Born into a lineage of skilled weavers, Nobuhle learned the craft from her grandmother, Zodwa, and her mother, Ntombifuthi. She began weaving at the age of 15, inspired by her family's legacy. Nobuhle’s ‘izimbenge’ beer pot covers and larger baskets blend traditional Zulu grass basket techniques with colorful plastic-coated telephone wire, creating intricate designs over days or weeks of meticulous work. Her motifs, inspired by Zulu beadwork as well as popular culture, convey messages of cultural pride and contemporary life.

Telephone wire art not only preserves Zulu traditions but also empowers marginalized women in Siyanda by providing critical economic opportunities. Nobuhle’s creations celebrate and sustain the cultural heritage and dynamism of the Zulu people.

Her work, along with that of many other telephone wire artists from South Africa, will be featured in the museum’s exhibition, iNgqikithi yokuPhica / Weaving Meanings. This first major exhibition of telephone wire art in any North American museum showcases the evolution and significance of wire weaving from historical to contemporary contexts, highlighting the artists' experiences through videos and interviews.

The exhibition features a significant collection generously assembled and donated by David Arment and Jim Rimelspach, the David Arment Southern African Collection. Guest curator Dr. Elizabeth Perrill, one of the world’s foremost experts on Zulu ceramics, brings over 15 years of experience collaborating with artists in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and 25 years of engaged research in Southern Africa.

You can see and purchase Nobuhle’s art and the work of other traditional and contemporary folk artists at the 20th anniversary International Folk Art Market this year at the Santa Fe Railyard on July 12-14. Click here to read more.

Photo courtesy of the artist/ International Folk Art Market.

The International Folk Art Market was founded 20 years ago by the museum’s Director Emeritus, Charlene Cerny; folk art entrepreneur Judy Espinar; Tom Aageson, former President/CEO of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation; and philanthropist and former Foundation and Market trustee Charmay Allred as a program of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation. The Market is now its own independent non-profit organization and the museum continues to enjoy a mutually-beneficial and growing partnership.

Your support helps make these impactful exhibitions and programs possible. Please click here or contact Laura Sullivan at or by phone at 505.216.0829 to get more information or to make a gift using stock, your individual retirement account (IRA), a donor advised fund (DAF) or other tax-advantaged me