Theophelus Rikhotso

2021 Award Finalist: THEOPHELUS RIKHOTSO



For the StateoftheART Gallery Award 2021,  we asked artists to find ways to engage with the reality of climate crisis and its impact on their own community; to create work to inspire and encourage societal change.  The 10 finalists were chosen from more than 600 submissions from across South Africa, with the judges scoring the artists on the creativity, originality, and technical skill of their entries to this year's Award theme ‘On The Brink, Visualising Climate Change’.
The work of the shortlisted artists will go on show in a special exhibition at StateoftheART’s Cape Town gallery from 16 - 30 October 2021, and the winner announced at the Award Ceremony on 16 October 2021. The winner will receive a R40 000 cash prize and a solo exhibition with the gallery in 2022.

We asked the top ten Gallery Award Finalists some questions to help you get to know them before the Finalists Exhibition in October.
Learn more about the StateoftheART Gallery Award here>>

"The Sinker" by Theophelus Rikhotso. Cement cast, 17.5 x 11 x 21 cm 


Theophelus Rikhotso:
Theophelus Rikhotso was born in a rural village of Bungeni, Njhakanjhaka in Limpopo province. He discovered his artistic talent when he was about eight years old. He was inspired by his uncle who was a self-taught artist. Art has always been Theophelus’s passion. He completed his B-Tech in Fine and Applied Arts at Tshwane University of Technology, majoring in sculpture. He believes making art is a vehicle for the expression of his thoughts, memories and everyday life experiences. Growing up in a rural village has offered him the perfect opportunity to observe nature that includes birds especially the African pied crows. His work is mostly inspired by nature and socio-political issues.


1.Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, and where do you currently live?
Theophelus Rikhotso, I am a multi-disciplinary artist working in sculpture, painting and drawing, I was born in rural village of Bungeni, njhaka njhaka in Limpopo province. I am currently based in Pretoria Muckleneuck.
2. How did you learn about the Award and what made you want to enter?On social media (Facebook). I am always interested and concerned citizen about the climate change in South Africa although we’re the country with low emission rate.
3. Tell us about where you make your work. I am currently working in a closed car garage where I spend more time doing welding and other processes of sculpting including mould-making and casting, painting and drawings.


"African Pied Crow on a Shovel" by Theophelus Rikhotso. Ready-made shovel and makaraoa (melted hard hat), 41.5 x 104 x 22 cm 

4. What is your key inspiration as an artist?I am mostly inspired by nature and memories. Growing up in a rural village has offered me a perfect opportunity to observe nature including birds such as the African pied crow (Gama) in Xitsonga language. We share the same habitat with these beautiful intelligent birds.
5. Do you have any rituals or habits involving your art-making that you can tell us about?I enjoy working alone in quiet space, no music just the sound of brushes and welding  while making sculptural works.
6. How does your work convey the threat that climate change poses to our planet and country?It poses a serious threat on how people and animals are denied freedom to access water mostly in the rural communities. My work conveys the threat in a socio-political way as I used birds and ready-made objects to create metaphors and dialogues.
7. How is your work relevant in a South African context?I find my work relevant because it tackles and explore the current socio-political issues and the everyday lives in a contemporary South Africa.
8. What do you think is the most urgent action required to tackle climate change in South Africa?I think the country has to set strategies to decrease carbon emissions such as an integrated energy plan which guides the evolution of the South African electricity supply sector.

Theophelus Rikhotso in studioTheophelus Rikhotso in studio.

9. Which South African artists, organisations or environmental activists do you find inspirational at the moment and why?Mbongeni Buthelezi, The idea of recycling and saving the environment is very important in our daily lives. I enjoy working directly with material such as plastic that I melt using soldering machine to reduce emission. I find it very interesting and fun to model with plastic as a manipulative material.
10.How do you feel about the upcoming group exhibition and the other shortlisted finalists’ works?I am very excited to participate in this upcoming exhibition with the shortlisted finalists, it think it would be a wonderful moment to engage with other artists about our experiences as emerging artists in order to reflect in our world of art also to encourage one another to continue producing powerful works that speak broadly to the viewers.
11. What do you think of the StateoftheART Gallery Award as a platform for emerging artists in South Africa?StateoftheART Gallery Award is the best platform for emerging artist to express our talents and creativity and it also give a wonderful opportunity for emerging artists to showcase their work and engage with the public. The solo exhibition offers the perfect opportunity to refine your skills and to develop your unique artist voice. Personally, for me I think this Award is a break through to the art industry for an emerging artist.
12. If you win the Gallery Award, tell us about what you have in mind for your solo exhibition in 2022?I am planning to make sculptural works, paintings, drawings and installations that speak mostly to the audience, I want viewers to interact and engage with the work the moment they walk in the space, I want to bring more perspective and different approaches to the traditional way of art making by bringing more contemporary ideas.
13. Finally, tell us something surprising about yourself.I have never been to the sea in my whole life. I never took a flight. I was exposed to a Christian religion at a very young age, but I am eager to learn more about other beliefs and not criticizing. I always have dreams about pied crows. I love strangers.


Detail of "Partial Liberty" by Theophelus Rikhotso. Material 1(M1), Steel and Ready-made objects, 29.5 x 123 x 20 cm