As part of its World Post Month celebrations, the SA Post Office will host an exhibition at the Nelson Mandela Metro Art Museum in Port Elizabeth. The exhibition which opened on 12 October is titled “The Art of a Stamp” and will showcase the intricate art behind stamp design and will feature some of South Africa’s favorite stamp sets.
The purpose of the exhibition is to showcase the artwork that is made for each stamp and the adaptation and diminution of the artwork into the stamp. “Since the days of the first South African stamp back in the 1800s postage stamp design has come a long way,” says Talita Fourie, curator of the SA Post Office Heritage Centre. “In fact, it has become a recognised art form across the world.” Fourie was speaking ahead of the opening of the exhibition in Port Elizabeth.
According to Fourie “There are a number of standard required elements on all stamps, like the denomination and country name, but in terms of the actual image, designers generally have artistic license and that is where the creativity comes in”. The choice of images for stamps is nearly unlimited and ranges from plants and animals, to historical figures, landscapes and even original works of art. Images can represent real-world objects or be abstract designs.
“We have a proud history of supporting local artists and enabling them to develop their skills, South Africa has benefited greatly from this because we have some of the best quality stamps in the world”, says Fourie.
Since stamps are ‘ambassadors’ for their country, the themes and imagery should ideally be chosen and depicted in such a way that they positively promote the country’s image. They should also appeal to the stamp-buying public. The choice of imagery is vast, ranging from fauna and flora, landscapes, culture and sport, to political and historical figures, technology and architecture.
As stamps appear on their humble ‘gallery’ of an envelope or as part of a collection or exhibit, they are much more than prepayment for postage. They are miniature works of art that tell the story of mankind: they reflect our beliefs, our history, our culture, concerns, and achievements. As such they should be viewed with the same respect as any fine artwork in a gallery.
The following stamp sets will be showcased as part of the exhibition:
- The Big Five and Baby Big 5
- Celebrating 150 Years of South African Railways: 1860 to 2010
- The Lure of South African Lore and Legends
- George Pemba – Grand Master of South African Art
- South African Marine Life
- Small Tooth Sawfish
- The Wonder World of Spiders
- Christmas 2006 – Jungle Bells!
The exhibition at the Nelson Mandela Metro Art Museum is part of a broader initiative by the SA Post Office Philately division, to encourage more local artists to take up an interest in designing stamps. The organisation is investing in various programmes to ensure that the art of stamp design is practiced and nurtured.
The exhibition is open to the public and will run until December 2012. For more information on the SA Post Office visit www.postoffice.co.za; buy stamps online at www.virtualpostoffice.co.za and follow us on South African Post Office on Facebook.
Author: Alex de Kock