Classy art from waste sandstone

Classy art from waste sandstone

Own Correspondent

NUL – A passionate team of Chemical Technologists at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) has designed an astonishing art from waste sandstone.

The exquisite art is a constellation of months of research and innovation by the patient scientists.

“You will never see anything like it,” Lintle Mafa, one of the brains behind the peculiar art, says.

“You can both confuse it for a painting, and for a real picture, while you quickly realise it is none of the above, all in a split second.”

Its texture, peered through a glass vessel, is nothing short of astounding.

“This is where our art beats any forms of art you know — it beats with texture,” a passionate artist turned Chemical Technologist, Setlhare Jane, says.

“The texture effects are simply impossible with any form of conventional art techniques.”

Now, unwind and relax as you listen to a story of how Chemistry, Geology and Art form an unbeatable coalition, a coalition extending over millions of years, and happening at the home we now call Lesotho.

The story of this sand art is superior to the mortals that are the scientists themselves.

It all started about 250 million years ago! You got it right, 250 million years ago! At that time, the continent of Africa and South America were still one thing—did you know that?

Africa and South America were glued together in what is now referred to as the supercontinent – Gondwanaland. At that time, the legendary dinosaurs ruled supreme.

After a rather humid period, the part where Lesotho is found now became arid and a very dry desert.

Then began a journey that would have a bearing on the sand art we see today.

Large envelops of sand, brought by the wind, deposited in what is now called Lesotho over millions of years and formed sand dunes. Under pressure, the sand dunes turned into sandstones and formed a geological formation called Clarens formation — named after the South African town of Clarens, which is rich with the stone.

It is the stone that is being mined, 250 million years later, at Lekokoaneng, for building purposes. The waste left by the stone firms is the target of the NUL innovators.

“We let other people call it a waste, but we call it a valuable resource,” says ’Marethabile Jane, as she referred to Lekokoaneng “waste” resource sandstone.

“There is something good about this stone, which makes it different from other major stones in Lesotho,” Lesia Matlali adds.

“Unlike the stone called Leseru (after which the town of Maseru gets its name), this sandstone has very tiny particles.”

Previous studies at the NUL revealed that the stone has an average size of 6o microns, which is 0.06 of a millimeter!

The beauty of the particle size in this stone is that it doesn’t vary much as well. Remember the deposition was by wind, and wind can carry so much weight only, not more.

That particle size is the most suited for application in sand art for many reasons.

“After spending months on experiments, we concluded that the particles of this size provided the best packing conformation,” Lesia says.

It was a brilliant discovery. But it was not to be the only one. When it comes to texture, this particle size also provides a superior one. The interplay of colors to portray certain natural or geographic features becomes far more real with this particle size.

The end result is a classy form of art within which millions of years of geology and billions of years of Chemistry, are carefully buried.

The scientists have also developed a method to refine the stone such that they obtain the purest form of the tiny silica particles to use in this art.

What of the frames? You can surely bet they were imported from South Africa, but, lo and behold, that is not the case. The frames were actually made by the innovators as well.

In fact, “everything in this art, including the frames is made by us,” Mafa says. “It is our intention to keep as much money inside the country as possible.”

So you want to distinguish yourself by laying your hand on one of these classy creations and illuminate your sitting room?

Yes you can! The products are already being sold, and your piece will be unique!

Who would have thought, that a process that started 250 million years ago would end in a classy art? Look no further than the Roma Valley, the only place where such kinds of combinations are even possible. At the NUL, it appears, the sky is no longer the limit!

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