Noria Mabasa was born in 1938 in Xigalo in the Limpopo province. She went to school for only one year, walking three hours a day to the nearest school. After a long battle to survive poverty, Mabasa began making clay sculptures of figures doing the Domba dance. She says, “I started because of a dream. It took a very long time, because I didn’t understand it well. This old lady (in the dream) was teaching me about things that didn’t seem very important until I started learning about it. This was in 1965; and (only) in 1974, I started the work”. She began to make clay figurines, from depicting daily life of people around her.
The old woman in her dreams came back and began to persuade her to carve wood. This idea was painfully difficult for her to accept: Venda women simply did not carve wood. The dreams recurred, including a catastrophic nightmare in which the sun and stars fell out of the sky, while her father stood in a river entreating her to accept the old woman’s “gift”. Mabasa, at last, became the first ever Venda woman to carve. From large trees torn down by flooding and storms, she cut massive pieces of trunk and root. She began to create ambitious sculptures, that represented events in the news, important commemorations, or Venda cultural beliefs. One of her first such major works was about the floods in Mozambique in 2002 – in which a woman gave birth to a baby while trapped up in a tree.