Current Exhibition

Rain Queen of Africa

September 12 - October 1 

 Rain Queen of AfricaLiz DeBeer

Clay & mixed media by Liz De Beer

Art Sunday: Sunday, October 1, 2–3 p.m.
For this special Culture Days presentation, Liz will spin tales and provide insight in to her techniques in a behind-the-scenes artist talk.


The legend of the African Rain Queen and her female dynasty provides fertile grounds for the imagination as it is grounded in folklore that stretches back to the 16th century. It has all the elements of a Shakespearian novel: sexuality, incest, murder, rituals and witchcraft played against the background of a rich African canvas. Artist Liz DeBeer's own roots lie in Africa and she believes that her clay art reflects this.


In this exhibition, the artist's intention is to expand and develop new sculptural forms inspired by the legend of Queen Modjadji, her numerous wives, their royal consorts and elements rooted in the rituals and culture of this tribe. The exhibition will consist of about 20–25 pieces in total (10–12 of these will be figurative). The figures will be surrounded by the tools of the queen's trade–the magical containers where she stores the ingredients she uses to make rain.


The use of traditional techniques of wood and pit firing versus electric kiln firing and the combination of both methods in the production of clay pots is another facet that is explored in the works.


The Story of Queen Modjadi:

The Balovedu tribe was founded by Dzugudini, a rainmaking princess of Zimbabwe's Karanga tribe. In the sixteenth century, she fled with her followers to the Daja Forest on the Molototsi River. Until the early nineteenth century, the ruler of the tribe was usually a man. Then, a chief called Mugado had visions, and executed his own sons. He married his daughter, and any male children were strangled shortly after birth. By this incestuous relationship, a dynasty of queens was founded. Modjadji may not marry a man, but has a number of "wives". Her children are fathered by royal consorts.

Modjadji became the most powerful rainmaker in Southern Africa. Even the mighty Zulus feared and respected her, and gave her the name Mabelemane ("four breasts"). They were certain that the fertility and richness which she brought to the earth would be mirrored in her own body.

The necessary rituals are usually performed in October. The rain comes at a price. The magical medicine once included the brain of a sacrificed child. Nowadays, a goat is considered sufficient. The skins of dead rain queens and their counsellors were also used. Apparently, after a corpse is left for a few days, the skin comes away easily in skilled hands. A human skull is used in the ritual, as are "gomana" drums, which help to summon the rain. The medicine is stored in pots called mehago. When the medicine is burned in magical horns, the smoke rises into the sky and seeds rain clouds. While the magical horns are placed on the ground, rain continues to fall. When Modjadji wishes the rain to stop, she hangs up the horns.

Modjadji reigns from her capital, which is also called Modjadji. However, she is rarely seen by tourists, unless special arrangements are made.

Currently, there is no ruling Rain Queen as the previous Rain Queen died on 12 June 2005.

Ferry Building Gallery
1414 Argyle Avenue
West Vancouver, BC
Gallery Hours
Tues - Sun: 11AM - 5PM
Closed Mondays
Tel 604-925-7290