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Unpublished text for opening speech at opening of Sfiso Ka-Mkame’s ‘Dialogues with myself’ solo exhibition at the African Art Centre, Durban, 2016.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.