On Artists

The aesthetics of feelings: a conversation with Zamani Makhanya

by Rachel Matteau Matsha

Zamani Makanya’s studio tells the story of a man and artist whose humble presence shines through the space. Bright oil pastel off-cuts cover the floor, a small transistor radio broadcasts a soccer match, smoke nonchalantly rises from an ashtray, and a discarded whiskey bottle is reinvented as a candleholder. The white walls are much more than walls. They are permanent easels, where colourful artworks are simultaneously in progress, as if engaged in a complex yet joyful symphony under the guidance of a masterful conductor. If these walls could talk, they would tell the story of a hard-working artist creating art to beautify the world around him.

Read More

Forging an African path, the art of Zamani Romeo Makhanya

by Carol Bown

Zamani Romeo Makhanya was born in Lamontville, KwaZulu-Natal, in 1959. He is one of a group of progressive Durban artists who forged a path towards the future despite the ongoing political and social constraints facing a generation of black artists who were coming to maturity during the turbulent years following the Soweto Uprising of 1976.

A direct influence on Zamani’s life is that, due to the dormitories at his school (Amanzimtoti College 1974-6) being burned down as a result of the Uprising, his studies were interrupted and he had to move from school to school (Ohlange High 1977 and Kwa Dlangezwa 1978 ). He commenced tertiary education at Fort Hare (1979-1984) where he received his Honours in Fine Art and his Higher Education Diploma (1985).

Read More

The visual narratives of Paul Sibisi

By Kolodi Senong

Paul Michael Sibisi was born on 23 September 1948 in the slums of Umkhumbane, Durban just over three months before the deadly January 1949 Durban Riots. (1) He attended primary school until Standard 4, in 1959, at Musa and Ekujabuleni Bantu Community Schools in Umkhumbane. In 1960 his family relocated to Chesterville, due to the Group Areas Act of 1950. He continued Standard 5 at Chris Nxumalo Higher Primary School and subsequently went to Chesterville Secondary School where he completed Standard 9, known as the Junior Certificate, in 1965.

Read More

Thami Jali, artist on a mission

It was Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian screenplay writer and author, who observed that “art is fire plus algebra”. In explaining the equation, Borges alluded to the passion and drive being the “fire” while technique and skill is the “algebra.”

As a ceramicist, painter, sculptor and printmaker, Jali has been deploying fire and skill since primary school. It was the fire that saw him defying his childhood teachers’ ban on his picture drawing habit which occupied most of his school day activities. The artist recalls how the natural inclination to making art cost him a fruitful relationship with everyone from the family patriarch to the schoolmaster.
Read More

African Phoenix: Sfiso ka-Mkame, then and now

By Sithembiso Sangweni

From the days when his explosive visual art exposed the injustices and inhumanity of apartheid, Sfiso Ka-Mkame is maturing with time, but he is still a rebel with a cause. His artistic manifestation and focus is no longer only about South Africa but about Africa, particularly the heroic roles of African women warriors.

In tune with the fluid technological revolution, Ka-Mkame’s art is grabbing attention via social media platforms bringing local and overseas customers knocking at his door in his transformed government subsidy house in Mbomvu street, Nazareth, outside Marianhill. The house is both a studio and home to his family, where he lives with his wife, son and daughter. The lounge is stacked with books he keeps at hand as his great source to find metaphors to tell forgotten heroic stories of African women warriors.

Read More

Questions of Abjection in Two Paintings by Mxolisi “Dolla” Sapeta

By Nkule Mabaso

Mxolisi “Dolla” Sapeta was born the third child of four children in New Brighton, a township outside Port Elizabeth, on January 26 1967. At the age of six he would, after school as he waited for his older siblings to arrive and grant him access to the family home, draw on the gravel outside the house and this over time became his favourite past time. The young Sapeta predominantly drew stick figures and sees this as the time that he developed what would later be his present relationship with the arts and a love for drawing.

Read More

Dogs on Duty: The unsettling aesthetic of Trevor Makhoba

By Mario Pissarra

Editorial note: This was originally commissioned by the Africa Centre, London and published on their now off-line website, Contemporary Africa Database, c. 2001, with the title “Trevor Makhoba Profile”. Apart from the correction of minor typographic errors, the essay is retained as in the original. It can be noted that the retrospective exhibition referred to at the conclusion of the essay was cancelled, due to unforeseen problems arising from negotiations with the late artist’s family. A photocopied series of essays commissioned for the catalogue can be found in some South African libraries (universities and museums). Makhoba’s work can be viewed in H. Proud (ed), ReVisions, SAHO and Unisa Press, 2006.

Read More