On Artists

Salt On My Breath

by Deela Khan

Review of ‘Prints in the Artsstrip’ by Randolph Hartzenberg at the AVA Gallery: 14 July – 1 August 2008.
This text was originally published on Hartzenberg’s page on asai.co.za

The exhibition comprises works from Hartzenberg’s Monotype Series “Map of the Neighbourhood” and a selection of Screen Prints from his series “Abbreviations”. The contiguity of the imagery, metaphor and iconography make a powerful statement. They bear testimony to the artist’s concerns with the ‘inner neighbourhood’ that has evolved for more than a decade.

Read More

Resilience and empathy: Sfiso Ka-Mkame at the AVA

by Mario Pissarra

Review of Sfiso Ka-Mkame’s solo exhibition at the AVA, Cape Town, published in Artthrob, 2003
http://artthrob.co.za/03oct/reviews/ava.html

There is an integrity to Ka-Mkame’s engagement with his materials and his subjects. His use of oil pastels is spectacular, the result of years of practice: “we understand each other” he says of this most modest of mediums. His subject matter also demonstrates continuity as he began chronicling the trials and tribulations of women in the eighties. Today this theme is more prominent, and his work is increasingly bold in scale, colour and pattern. He often contrasts naturalistic colour (usually applied to skin tone, land and sky) with a more subjective use of colour best seen in his depiction of female clothing, but also featuring sometimes in the landscape as with the intensely emotive red sky in “Sorrow Swallow Me”

Read More

Affirmations of humanity: Sfiso Ka-Mkame’s dialogues with himself

by Mario Pissarra

Unpublished text for opening speech at opening of Sfiso Ka-Mkame’s ‘Dialogues with myself’ solo exhibition at the African Art Centre, Durban, 2016. It was originally published on Ka-Mkame’s page on asai.co.za in 2016.

I wish to thank the artist and the African Art Centre for inviting me to open this exhibition. I am indeed honoured to have this opportunity to share some thoughts about Sfiso ka-Mkame, an artist who I hold in high esteem.

I first became aware of Sfiso in the late 1980s. His ‘Letters to God’ was one of the most widely published artworks in that period, and I came to learn that it was not a work that was produced in isolation. Rather, it was part of a series of “letters”. Formally, these works consisted of semi-autonomous images, combined to form a dense composition. Notably, when many works from this period were large and imposing, Sfiso’s Letters were intimate works, modest in scale and requiring you to look at them closely. The series was also remarkable for having been produced with oil pastels, a medium. usually associated with preparatory rather than finished works. Thematically, the work of this period related directly to what was happening in the artist’s environment, noting that this was a time of mass resistance to apartheid.

Read More

Sfiso Ka-Mkame: Charting his own course

by Mario Pissarra

This profile was originally commissioned by the Africa Centre (London) for their Contemporary Africa Database (www.africaexpert.org, no longer online), published in 2003. It was reprinted by the African Art Centre, Durban, for a catalogue produced for the exhibition Sfiso Ka-Mkame: Exhibition of oil pastels 13 to 30 October 2004, and first appeared on asai.co.za on Ka-Mkame’s artist page.

Sfiso Ka-Mkame first received national and international recognition as an artist in the late 80s when he produced a series of “letters”. These took the form of full colour drawings that were themselves made up of different scenes, arranged in quasi-comic book format. However unlike comics these images did not suggest any sequential narrative. Rather each component told its own ‘story’, united by an overall theme. “Letters to God” (1988), which was bought by the South African National Gallery and appeared in several publications is probably the best known of these early works.

Read More

Quiet Provocations: Thoughts on two works by Randolph Hartzenberg

by Mario Pissarra

This text was originally published on Hartzenberg’s page on asai.co.za in October 2014

Randolph Hartzenberg has worked most of his professional life as an educator. For several years, he taught art at Alexander Sinton High School in Athlone and later lectured in design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Alongside his work as an educator, Hartzenberg has produced a rich body of artworks. He first attracted attention for his work as a painter, notably Domestic Baggage (1994), and later received some attention for his printmaking (Map of the Neighbourhood (1996)). In more recent years, there has been increased interest in his performances and installations. For the latter, there is typically a strong sculptural element, although these pieces tend to be categorised as installations because most make use of found materials and are produced for specific locale, usually in response to invitations from curators.

Read More

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