This conversation was first published by Durban Art Gallery in conjunction with the exhibition ‘Thami Jali: Restless Spirit’, 2014.
JS: Metal features prominently in your work, what attracts you to the material?
TJ: You see, I have always been a person who likes to experiment. I have never been afraid to use alternative materials. Of course this whole thing about painting on metal, that on its own I see as a statement. I picked those things up in Clermont, they are of the area and they talk about process, life in the township. That particular container, when I went out in the street to dismantle it, I wasn’t sure I was safe doing it, because drug addicts and hooligans were using it as a shelter. So I was destroying something that was very important to them. Fortunately I didn’t encounter any problems. The fact that I managed to get out there, take all this iron sheeting and destroy this home that was so dangerous to people, to me it is actually a statement, because I live in that area. I am very much affected by what is happening there. Why metaI…I find that the material itself has opened up a new direction for me. I don’t just use any iron sheeting. I use sheeting that has been through fire. In the 80’s when the struggle was at its peak, we saw a lot of buildings being destroyed by fire … people just setting the buildings on fire. I feel that I don’t have to paint people to express the hardships in the township, I can just show it observing spaces and buildings.