Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
What inspires me is how artist now use recyclable material to make art, artists like Mbongeni Bhuthelezi and Ndabuko Ntuli. Art has recently become somewhat of an experiment, like in science. The likes of Percy Mmamela (Salt Art), Azael Langa (smoke art), Innock (Coffee Art) engage in such artistic experiments and show their uniqueness while keeping the contemporary touch.
Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?
David Koloane, he went beyond being an artist and became a mentor to a lot of young and established artists. I admire Koloane’s artistry because he was a versatile artists working with different mediums. “He was a soft-spoken, kind and generous person who always put his students and fellow artists first. David’s life and work stand as a testament to the indomitable nature of the human spirit, and its ability to overcome all obstacles with humility and grace.” (ANA Reporter, 2019)
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Wow, definitely one piece from the greatest, yet uncelebrated and forgotten South African contemporary artist, David Mbele titled: ‘2 works: Figures’. This piece is thought provoking and to me comments on the educational system and its flaws.
How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
I was born an artist, I was born to tell and comment about the world. It all started from primary where I used to get in trouble drawing my fellow mates and bullies as cartoons. I was part of the small craft group in my village were we used to paint people’s house numbers, make ‘Melamo’ traditional sticks for churches and other household supplies made out of wood. I have long known that I am an artist and I wanted to hone my talent/calling as an artist.
What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
My work is layered, I’m trying to provoke commentary and have my signature as visible as possible while being contemporary.
1. All my works are done on recycled ceiling board as my canvas and I use gypsum which is the white like chalk in between the brown layered sheet paper that makes ceiling. My exploration with paper and love for paper texture lead me to work with recycled ceiling which holistically makes a statement about recycling and protecting the environment: “reduce, reuse and recycle”.
2. I’m exploring the theme of humanity which includes culture as a core issue. I explore this by recreating/ re-imagining portraits and dressing them in traditional attires, accessories and physical styling of different races, tribes, gender etc. using the influence of minimalism.
3. With culture I explore human interaction, especially gender interaction. I explore the importance of the key principles that make us who we are. The pain and joy that humanity goes through. I explore all this through creating meditated imagery of different people.
4. With my portraiture I try to imagine and live in different people’s emotional states. The current theme I am exploring is the strife women face on a day to day basis.
What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
My art is heavily influenced by my past experience. I became an orphan at a young age and lived in the streets for some years. I use portraiture to image what people go through every day. I am an emotional person who tends to feel for other people before myself. With my work I explore my emotional state and share other people’s.
Tell us more about your creative process.
I go around dumping, landfills and reconstruction sites to collect damaged and disposed ceiling board to use as my canvas, which contributes to the message of my work. I call my creative process meditation which involves a set of routines and rituals that I perform before and during the process of creation. I firstly start by reading and doing research on the internet and in old visual art books as preliminary studies. I then burn impepho (a sacred African herb) which in my culture is believed to assist to cleanse negative energy and most importantly communicate with ancestors. During the burning of impepho I play meditational music, like Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Jamaican reggae which give me motion and rhythm to start drawing. Normally I can’t draw one artwork at the time so I normally set up a range of up to four pieces which will give me more room for experimentation and fluidity. I then start jamming. I use gypsum, chalk, tipex, burnt wood, oil pencil pastels, pen, acrylic paint and willow/ pencil charcoal on recycled ceiling board.
What drives you as an artist?
What drives me as an artist is beyond making money, like I said, art to me it’s a calling. It’s a quest to communicate, capture, observers our society. I try by all means to develop self-awareness or raise public awareness. If an individual or a society is aware, values such as respect, understanding, tolerance and compassion becomes very important to that individual or the society. I believe that we are not only learners at school, a child at home, a grandchild to our grandparents or citizens of South Africa. We are also part of the bigger world, a global village. That is why we should be aware of what is going on not only in our own home or city or town or province or country, but also in the rest of the world. It is only when we are well informed that we can learn how to best respond to the universal issues, and art can help us do that. I do all this while I interpret my fantasy.
Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?
Oh yes I do, my recent series of three drawings i call: BOTLHOKO BA MOSADI WA MO AFRIKA (THE PAIN OF AN AFRICAN WOMAN) in these works I explore the ongoing violence against women, I used imagined meditated visual portrait of my mother and recreated her in the modern setting. These pieces remind me of the abuse my mother used to endure from my father which I witnessed all the time. This made my childhood miserable until they passed away when I was 8 years of age.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
I honestly haven’t achieved a lot yet; I am only now resurfacing after a long time of struggle and battle to understand myself as an artist.
What are your aspirations for the future?
My most important priorities are to create every day and spread the joy of Creative play and Meditation.
I aspire to collaborate with, local and international artists to teach young people in our community and beyond. South Africa suffers from issues like xenophobia, crime, gender based violence, and the list is endless. I seek to continue spreading the message that art has the amazing quality of nourishing the mind and spirit…whether through mission trips or exhibitions. In 2019 I’ve aspire to grow my online presence and to find gallery representation. I would like to create impressive larger formats using other unique techniques I haven’t practiced before and present them in one of the big local and international fairs and hold my first established Solo Exhibition… Last but not least, the most important one is to retire as an educator and do art full time.