Photo of Isaac Nkululeko Makeleni

Isaac Nkululeko Makeleni

Isaac Makeleni (1950-2008) was born in Vasco, and lived in Nyanga. A self-taught sculptor and painter with a history of involvement in community arts initiatives, Makeleni’s creative works are rich in allusions to historical, political and cultural themes.

From the Against the Grain catalogue: “Recent political history … features in works commemorating liberation in Southern Africa. Sam Nujoma and Company refers to Namibian independence, linking it to the struggle against apartheid … Another work from the early 1990s positions the future South African President (Mandela) alongside the soon-to-be-replaced political order, represented by President F.W. de Klerk. At first glance the two figures appear to have equal value; the sculpture seems to be visualising unity between past foes. However a closer look reveals that De Klerk’s arms are folded whereas Mandela holds a microphone, an act that gives the recently released political prisoner greater agency. Seen in this way, the work clearly references the transfer of power taking place at that time. The rear of the sculpture is more explicitly partisan and openly celebrates the African National Congress (ANC), but in a little twist typical of Makeleni he cloaks references to the ANC in red, gold and green, colours frequently associated with African liberation.”

Education


Nyanga Public Primary and Higher Schools (completed Standard 5/ Grade 7).
Self-taught artist

Exhibitions


2013 Against the Grain, Iziko South African National Gallery. Curated by Mario Pissarra. Featured works "Together Forever"€, "€œTogether Forever II"€, "€œCross"€, "Mandela and de Klerk", "€œPrescribed..."€ and "€œFall of Nyanga Bush"€. Full-colour catalogue with essay on artist, published by ASAI.
2012 Siyakubona, Cape Gallery, Cape Town.
2011 A Natural Selection. 1991-2011, AVA. Curated by Clare Butcher. Featured work "€œPrescribed..."
2007 & Beyond Encryption, Cape Gallery.
2007 Africa South, AVA, Cape Town. Curated by Mario Pissarra. Featured work "€œPrescribed..."
2007 Exhibition to accompany international conference of Jungian psychologists, Cape Town International Conference Centre. Curated by Josie Grinrod and Kate Gottgens. Featured work "For Whom the Bell Tolls"€ purchased by the curator (Grinrod).
2007 Exhibition #1. Gill Alderman Gallery, Kenilworth. Featured work "Together Forever (II)"€
2006  Stop Crime awareness campaign, organised by City of Cape Town. Exhibition listed on artist'€™s CV, details not known
2005 Group exhibition, Zolani Centre, Nyanga. Sponsored by Old Mutual. Exhibition listed on artist'€™s CV, details not known.
2004 Masivuke ma Africa exhibition, Walter Teka School, Nyanga.
2004 Botaki. Old Mutual Asset Managers, Cape Town. Curated by Mario Pissarra. Featured work "Together Forever (II)"€. Small illustrated catalogue.
2002 Human Rights Media Centre, Athlone. Exhibition listed on artist’s CV, details not known.
2002-03 Exhibition for opening ceremony of ICC cricket World Cup. Exhibition listed on artist's CV, details not known.
2002 Umbono. Castle of Good Hope. Exhibition listed on artist'€™s CV, details not known.
2001 A Woman'€™s Journey. Philani Nutrition Project exhibition, Castle of Good Hope. Exhibition listed on artist'€™s CV, details not known.
1999 One City, Many Cultures Festival. Makeleni co-ordinated group of artists who painted six street signs in Guguletu, organised by Public Eye. See http://www.public-eye.co.za/99-p4.html Listed in Artthrob, with photograph of artist http://www.artthrob.co.za/99sept/listings.html
1999 Masivuke ma Africa Calendar Exhibition, Zolani Centre, Nyanga. Exhibition listed on artist's CV, details not known. (Unclear if same as 1997 entry for calendar exhibition at Zolani Centre, listed on another version of CV)
1998 Cape Town Arts Festival. Exhibition listed on artist's CV, details not known (unclear if same as above)
1998 Group exhibition, Zolani Centre, Nyanga. Exhibition listed on artist'€™s CV, details not known (unclear if linked to mosaic exterior of Zolani Centre, which Makeleni participated in).
1997 Engaging the Shadows exhibition-project, Robben Island Museum. Colour photograph of two dolls produced by the artist featured along with listing in Mail & Guardian 6 February 1997.
1996 Primart Gallery, Claremont, Cape Town.
1996: Wood panel workshop and exhibition, AVA. Panel sold to unknown buyer.
1996 Community projects exhibition, South African National Gallery. Exhibition listed on artist'€™s CV, details not known.
1995 Exhibited his first "€œBlack Doll"€ at Primart, Claremont.
1994 Twenty Pieces of wood, British Council, Cape Town. Exhibition listed on artist's CV, details not known.
1993 Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town. Exhibition listed on artist's CV, details not known.
1993 Exhibited crafts at Red Shed, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, as part of Masizakhe co-operative.
1993 Safmarine House, Cape Town. Exhibition listed on artist'€™s CV, details not known.
1992-93 Made in Wood. South African National Gallery, Cape Town. Featured work "Sam Nujoma and Company"€. Catalogue includes b/w illustration of work and short biography.
1992 Visual Arts Group travelling exhibition at Zolani Centre, Nyanga; Uluntu Centre, Guguletu; Mayibuye Centre UWC; Centre for African Studies, UCT; and South African Association of Arts, Church Street. Featured several works, including "Mellow Yellow"€. Key role in running adult and childrens workshops at Zolani Centre.
1992 Mural painting exhibition- workshop, Baxter Theatre Gallery. Painted panel with Willie Bester and Vincent Silimela, purchased by Mayibuye Centre, UWC.
1991 [with Willie Bester and Ismael Thyssen], Gallery International, Cape Town. Featured several works, including "€œSam Nujoma and Company". Exhibition opened by Albie Sachs.
1991 Visual Arts Group travelling exhibition at Manenberg People's Centre; Zolani Centre, Nyanga; and Uluntu Centre, Guguletu. Featured several works including "Mandela and De Klerk": (Sold) and "Together Forever".
1987 Eye of the Artist, St Mary'€™s Church, Guguletu. Organised by CAP students
1986 Primart Gallery, Claremont

Collections


Iziko Museums ("€œSeven Vices"€).
University of the Western Cape.

Publications


Martin, Marilyn et al (1992) Made in Wood: Work from the Western Cape. South African National Gallery, Cape Town. ISBN 1 874817 07 3
Pissarra, Mario (2004) Botaki. Old Mutual asset Managers, Pinelands. Available online (click here) 
Pissarra, Mario (2011) (ed.) Visual Century: South African art in context. Vol 3: 1973-92. Wits University Press, Johannesburg. ISBN 978 1 86814 526 3. Introduction online (includes discussion of Makeleni)

Pissarra, M (2013) Against the Grain. ASAI, Cape Town, 64 pp. ISBN
978 0 620 57044 2

Other


1990 -€“ c. 1993 Active member of Visual Arts Group Served on executive, including as chairperson.
c. 1992: Workshop for criminal offenders for Nicro, Mitchells plain. Run on behalf of Visual Arts Group.
c. 1992: Co-founder Masizakhe crafts co-operative.
1991: Member of Federation of South African Cultural Organisations (FOSACO) delegations in talks with the South African National Gallery, South African Association of Arts, and City of Cape Town, concerning the democratisation of para-statal cultural institutions.
Early 1980s: Founded Makeleni Arts & Crafts
Early 1980s: briefly associated with Nyanga Arts Centre and Community Arts Project

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