Word View Authors

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Paul Sibisi and the art of protest

by Brenton Maart

I

Paul Sibisi was born in 1948 and thus, in his first year of life, came into a family and community at the very cusp of insanity, pivoting violently between a colonial history and an institutionalized apartheid reality, legislated and enforced. Reactions reverberated across the country like dynamite dominoes, and thus the artist’s birth year was proximal, personal, direct, immediate; one experiential component of a country under attack.

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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.

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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.
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Recalling The Natal Visual Arts Organisation: a roundtable conversation

Proceedings of a conversation with Sfiso ka Mkame, Thami Jali, Paul Sibisi and Zamani Makhanya, moderated by Mario Pissarra, with contributions from Scott Williams and Russel Hlongwane. 

Editorial note: Participants arrived at various times during the morning, leading to certain points being revisited with different inputs.

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In conversation: Meshack Raphalalani, Avhashoni Mainganye and Jameson Ramvivhelo on the need to revive the VhaVenda Art Foundation and Ḓitike

Editorial note: This is a translated transcript of a conversation between former members of the VhaVenda Art Foundation, held on 5 August 2017 at the Victim Empowerment Centre, Thohoyandou, Limpopo. The original video recording (in TshiVenda) can be viewed on YouTube. The conversation formed part of a series of roundtable conversations with community arts networks active in the 1980s and early 1990s that have been convened by ASAI, with financial support from the National Lotteries Commission. Thank you to Gudani Ramikosi for the translation and transcription.

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The Imvaba Arts Collective: A brief history of its activities and significance (1)

By Eben Lochner

As political conditions were changing following the unbanning of political prisoners on 2 Feb 1990 there was a sense among activists that the conditions and goals of their work would shift. Already, activist and Judge Albie Sachs made an infamous call in 1989 to ban the use of art as a weapon of struggle. This drew responses from various cultural activists that challenged the legitimacy of his assessment of the state of art in South Africa as well as his suggestion for moving forward. (2) Inherent in Sachs’ critique was the idea that artwork representing the political struggle was somehow not appropriate for a new democracy. This was due to a shallow agit-prop visual culture which relied on re-using the same slogans for legitimacy and disregarded aesthetic quality. Examining the history of the Imvaba arts collective in Port Elizabeth gives us insight into the productive role played by artists in visually articulating vision for a new South Africa. In this article I will show that Imvaba’s approach to art was not about simple sloganeering, but the promotion of a value system that was believed to be vital to a non-racial South Africa.

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