Photo of Dathini Mzayiya

Dathini Mzayiya

b. Queenstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa, 1979. Lives in Cape Town.

Dathini Mzayiya skillfully blends drawing and painting in his striking renditions of everyday subjects.


© Mario Pissarra, 30/01/2006

Image: Dathini Mzayiya “Rewinding at the End of the Day II” 2005

Umsi (the smoke) is a group exhibition featuring Lindile Magunya, Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi, Thulani Shuku, Dathini Mzayiya, Lonwabo Kilani, and Vivien Kohler. Inspired by Magunyas “documentation of the ongoing burning of the shacks in his area”; the artists share a “common concern around the housing problems in the Western Cape [and are] questioning the ongoing burning of the informal settlements”. They believe that through coming together they can “voice these social issues louder than an individual can.” The motivation for collective action is also a practical one. The artists, who between them have studied at every local institution accessible them, primarily NGO’s, colleges and workshops, “decided to create our own opportunities [to build] our group career as well as our individual careers [due to] the gap …between galleries and emerging artists, and … the lack of resources for …solo exhibitions” Guided by emerging curator Vuyile Voyiya, who has been mentor to the group, these paintings come from a workshop held last year as well as from works produced subsequently.

Magunya provides the most explicit interpretation of the theme with The Cries and Abandon, which utilises a simple but effective split frame composition. Generally he does a decent job capturing the texture and character of objects but he struggles with resolving the tension between the pictorial representation of debris with the production of sophisticated commodities (art). His solutions: to simulate through paint on canvas the illusion of a torn edge, or to physically severe edges of his board and to present them in black tomato boxes, were perhaps better ideas than results. In particular the sawn edges appear contrived, and he may have been better served by painting on real debris.

Mzayiya, particularly with his two paintings titled Rewinding at the End of the Day, presents a less direct take on the theme by addressing the need for social spaces for dialogue. His larger than life seated figures are wedged into corners and pressed against walls, their shadows emphasising their marginality. He demonstrates both graphic and gestural sensibilities but the overall result is essentially realist in its convincing representation of ordinary people in everyday guise.

Ngqinambi creates an extraordinary interplay between a tightly modelled naturalism, seen primarily in his figures, with his painterly treatment of the natural elements where the boundaries between land and sky are as fluid as the shifts between the evocation of a deep illusory space and the affirmation of a flat painted surface. Consequently his figures occupy a liminal space that communicates a sense of waiting. A series of small paintings highlights the artist’s ability to skilfully evoke epic narratives without resorting to large scale.

Kilani demonstrates an impressive proficiency for drawing. His birds eye perspectives on solitary sweeping men are extremely effective. The contrast of fairly acute illusory space with flat, textured ground is a striking compositional device that establishes a sudden sense of finding oneself on the precipice of a silent excavation. However as a painting the flat ground lacks interest and suggests that it is the second hand repository of an idea, rather than a painterly resolution of the artistic process.

Kohler combines an unusual method of painting in oils on tile grout, with a more orthodox painting technique that constitutes a painterly realism. He incorporates rusted, found objects, generally separating them from the painted areas. A convincing painter he should be wary of concepts that come uncomfortably close to cliché: his visual realisation of roots as rusty being an example.

While most artists reveal strong graphic inclinations Shuku is undisputedly more painter than anything else. His gestures are almost flamboyant, a ‘wild’ emotive style that communicates urgency, chaos, disintegration and fragmentation. He is less successful in his inclusion of small, circular, decorative details, presumably as a contrast to his audacious, explosive brushstrokes, as these come across as superfluous doodles that add little value to his works.

Overall Umsi is a coherent and inspiring group exhibition. It boldly affirms the relevance of painting for an emerging generation who are determined to make their mark as socially concerned and professionally motivated artists.

Mario Pissarra 30 January 2006

[All quotes come from artists’ statements accompanying the exhibition.]

NB An edited version of this review appeared in Art South Africa vol 4 no 3, 2006

Umfanekiso ( Reflections)
Filmed by Dathini Mzayiya, edited by Caleb Heymann South Africa for the One Minute Video Festival.2008



2001 Community Arts Project, Woodstock, Cape Town, South Africa.
2000 Graphic design and advertising, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town.
1999 Advertising and Marketing, Advertising College of South Africa, Cape Town.

Workshops & residencies

2009 Glenfiddich Artist in Residence, Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, Scotland.
2007 Arts and Media Access Centre (AMAC) students Workshop by City Skin design, resulting in a mural at the lower cable station, Table Mountain, Cape Town.
2006 National Heritage Council, African Art Museum, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.
2006 Umsi (The smoke) painting workshop, Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town
2005 Mural Global Agenda 21 under UNESCO, Inda Gymnasium, Aachen, Germany
2005 Mural Global Agenda 21 at the train station, Aachen-Schanz, Germany
2005 Mural Global Agenda 21, Khayelitsha Training Centre, Cape Town.
2005 Mural Global Agenda 21, Swop painting workshop with students from Mitchells Plain, Manneneberg and Khayelitsha, Luhlaza High School, Khayelitsha, CapeTown.
2005 Mural Global Agenda 21, Painting workshop with AIDS-affected children from the Fikelela Children’s Home, Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
2004 Thupelo Workshop, Iziko South African National Gallery (Annexe), Cape Town.
2002 Thupelo Artists Workshop, Annexe, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
2002 Ukuzoba (To draw): From Representational Painting to Abstraction, Community Arts Project, Woodstock, Cape Town.
2002 Ukuzoba (To draw) public workshops, Baden, Austria; Villach, Switzerland, and Berlin (with Trish Lovemore and Boyce Magandela)
2002 Mural painting workshop, Nomlingaliselo Primary School, New Crossroads, Cape Town (with Sipho Hlathi, Lonwabo Kilani and Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi).

Solo exhibitions

2013 Onder die Reenboog Strale, Greatmore Studios, Cape Town.
2005 Pop-up exhibition, BBK Gallery, Aachen.

Group exhibitions

2011 Kadafi, The Bag Factory, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2010 The Glenffidich Artist in Residence, The Rainbow Experience Gallery, Mandela Rhodes Place, Cape Town.
2010 Nothing is Everything, Word of Art, Woodstock Industrial Centre, Cape Town.
2010 Ityala aliboli/Debt don’t rot, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.
2010 Milestones, Greatmore Studios, Woodstock, Cape Town.
2010 30 x 30 artists, Gill Allderman Gallery, Kenilworth, Cape Town.
2010 Botaki Contemporary African Art, Albany Museum, Grahamstown; Mecufe Festival, Bloemfontein, South Africa.
2009 Umahluko, Cape ’09, Lookout Hill, Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
2009 Dada South, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
2009 Untitled exhibition, Glenfidich Distillery, Dufftown, Scotland.
2008 Milk Can Art Project, 34 Long Street Art Gallery, Cape Town.
2008 Winter Open Studio, Greatmore Studios, Woodstock, Cape Town.
2007 Africa south, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town.
2007 Nine South African Artists, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg.
2006 Umsi/Smoke, AVA, Cape Town.
2006 Nine South African Artists, Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
2005 Atelier Haus Aachen Gallery (with Thulani Shuku), Aachen, Germany; Austria and Switzerland.
2004 Artwork Project, Chat Room Communication and Marketing, Cape Town.
2004 Studio exhibition (with Thulani Shuku), Mowbray, Cape Town.
2004 Live Action Painting on Canvas, Cape Town Festival, Company’s Gardens, Cape Town.
2003 Art Angels, Gardens Presbyterian Church, Gardens, Cape Town.
2003 Angels without Wings, Cape Of Good Hope Castle, Cape Town.
2003 Vision, Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town.
2003 Workshop exhibitions (with Boyce Magandela and Trish Lovemore), Maria Wörth, Reifnitz, Lienz and Kitzbuhel, Austria.
2002 Absolut Secret 7: Absolut Voyeur, AVA, Cape Town.
2002 Members exhibition, Association for Visual Arts (AVA), Cape Town.
2002 Galerie Halde 14, Balden, Switzerland.
2002 Why Cry?, Greatmore Studios, Woodstock, Cape Town.
2002 Ukozoba (To draw) workshop exhibition, Iziko South African National Gallery (Annexe), Cape Town.
2002 Thupelo workshop exhibition, Iziko South African National Gallery (Annexe), Cape Town.
2001 Afro metamorphosis’, Community Arts Project (CAP), Cape Town.

Gugulective Exhibitions

2014 Gugulective Arts Collective exhibition during Creative Week 2014, KwaMlamli’s Place, Gugulethu, Cape Town
2010 1910-2010: From Pierneef to Gugulective, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
2009 Subversion, Gugulective Arts Collective exhibition, Harbour, Hamburg, Germany.
2008 South Africa Performs, HAU Theatre, Berlin (As part of Gugulective Arts Collective and with other global collectives)
2007 Akuchanywa Apha (No pissing), Gugulective, KwaMlamli’s Place, Guguletu; Blank Projects, Cape Town.


Youth Veteran Award from Khayelitsha Youth Development Forum (KYDF), Cape Town.


Foreign Press Centre, Cape Town
Chris Barnard Heart Centre, UCT
Villach Town Hall, Austria
Private collections in South Africa and Europe