My uncle’s tribute in timber to the people of Africa
Note: While technically this piece qualifies as nepotism I am sick of writing about the election and Uncle Ken is a top bloke who has done a great thing.
Furniture is not commonly associated with politics. Bob Geldof did not try to feed the world with a chair.
My Uncle Ken Pfitzner is a gifted Adelaide cabinetmaker who spent a life-changing year of his adolescence travelling through Africa where, among other things, he was memorably attacked by a baboon.
Since then he has led a quieter life creating and restoring amazing pieces of furniture from his shambolic workshop in Edwardstown.
If everyone has an opus magnus in their life, Uncle Ken has just made his – a piece of furniture entitled “Africa Dawning” which when sold will raise $15,000 for child education programs in the impoverished nation of Sudan.
The piece is a credenza – an old Italian word for an elaborate sideboard – and it is a 300-hour labour of love which uses Ken’s carpentry talents as a vehicle for his greater passion, an end to famine and poverty in Africa.
The piece, on display at The Jam Factory in Adelaide’s Morphett St, is an extraordinary combination of timbers, ostrich leather, copper, recovered and distressed spokes from a wooden wagon wheel, wire and beads. It is an amazing piece of furniture in that has a rhythm and vibrancy which is immediately recognisable as belonging to the continent it honours.
Uncle Ken says that he made the piece because he wanted not just to celebrate Africa but to demand action for Sudan, where just 1.9 per cent of children finish primary school and one in every six babies dies before its first birthday.
The Jam Factory exhibition has been organised by the Australian charity Timpir, of which he is a member, “timpir” being a word from the Sudanese Dinka language which means the shoot of a plant, representing the growth of a new Sudan after the horror of civil war and genocide.
“I don’t really want the credenza to be the focus, what I was trying to do with it was to capture the light and the colour and energy of Africa and to use different materials towards that end,” he says.
“But the reason for doing it is what counts and it is about bringing attention to the work of Timpir and the starvation and suffering still going on in Sudan, which many Australians aren’t familiar with.
“I suppose I sound like a bit of an old fart but you go through life doing things and making things and I really wanted to make this piece as a statement for social change and to bring attention and raise funds for the plight of people in this extraordinary country.”
The exhibition finishes on September 5.
Read all about it
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