by Jenny Stretton
This text was first published by Durban Art Gallery in conjunction with the exhibition ‘Thami Jali: Restless Spirit’, 2014.
Thami Jali’s story is so much about South Africa’s recent past: the fractured nation, its diverse cultures, seemingly endless journeys and the hunger for an authentic artistic home. His search for an aesthetic he could truly call his own took him from Durban’s Clermont township to Zululand; Nelspruit; Rorke’s Drift; Johannesburg; London; New Delhi and finally back to Durban to the house he grew up in. Called a renaissance man by those who’ve watched his career Jali is multi-talented, equally at home behind the wheel or at a canvas. But it’s the way this artist has interrogated South African society that informs his vision: he’s lived on the street, eschewed popular politics for artistic integrity, and given back to his students far more than he ever took.