The Story Behind the Phansi Museum

Meet Phansi museum founder Paul Mikula and learn about his journey with southern African art

Listen to Phansi Museum founder Paul Mikula speaking about the role of the Phansi Museum

Welcome to the Phansi Museum

Located in Durban, South Africa, Phansi Museum is one of the word's most extensive southern African art archives. Phansi Museum was founded by architect and activist Paul Mikula who describes the museum as 'a repository of artistic work with clear and verifiable links to critical milestones in the spiritual and social development of indigenous communities in southern Africa.'

Medicine Gourds and Healing toolsPhansi Museum

A museum in the works

Part of what makes Phansi's collection so rich and singular is the passion which went into its establishment.  The museum has humble beginnings and first started as a collection of pieces which  founder Paul Mikula bought from traditional craftsmen on his journeys through southern Africa.

“Phansi has a particular love and interest for all people and things creative, how they are made, their beauty and their function. We exist to treasure and to inspire”. — Paul Mikula

Listen to Phansi Museum founder Paul Mikula speaking about what he believes is the core of traditional art

The backstory

The story behind many of the collection's works  is one of deep love and reverence, with each piece having a unique narrative. The works in the museum were purchased over many years during trips into various parts of southern Africa where Paul met different artisans. 

Story behind Phansi Ubuntu Art Museum and unique collectionPhansi Museum

Paul Mikula and his love for African art

Over a period of 30 years Paul Mikula collected tradional work from southern Africa. Learn about what motivated Paul to start his collection and meet the artists and friends who inspired the Phansi Museum collection

The White Queen (1950-04) by Margaret Bourke-WhiteLIFE Photo Collection

Going against the grain

As young architects Paul was fascinated by indigenous architecture which, as he explains, "went against everything we were taught and practiced." 

Medicine Gourds and Healing toolsPhansi Museum

Listen to Phansi Museum founder Paul Mikula speaking his mission for the museum

Continuing the journey

This early love of indigenous architecture, and the counter it offered to his feelings of rigidity around Western architecture, paved the way for Paul's life-long reverence of and dedication to indigenous African art, design and philosophy. 

Medicine Gourds and Healing toolsPhansi Museum

Respect and reverence

 Why Phansi's collection is so meaningful to so many people is not only because of its vastness the extensive knowledge it espouses but it is also because of the deep respect with which the pieces were acquired. 

Medicine Gourds and Healing toolsPhansi Museum

Listen to Phansi Museum founder Paul Mikula speaking about tradition, art and beauty

Learning through personal reflections

Almost every piece Paul brought into the museum was purchased from artisans during extensive research trips. Rather than providing cold,  textbook style context to the pieces, Paul is able to tell the story behind them, fondly recalling the people he met and things he learnt during the time a piece was purchased.

In indigenous practices in southern Africa there is no term for Art. Life is Art. We mourn, celebrate and survive through beauty and respect. This is Art. Art is shared with fellow humans through materials derived from flora, fauna and the power of nature, expressed though natural talents. — Paul Mikula

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