Monday, May 7, 2018

Comrades in the Arts and Culture - four decades ago

Muziwakhe Nhlabatsi: 

Illustrator, graphic designer, photographer and teacher 

“Art is the greatest weapon against any tyrant regime. Arts talks to the heartbeat of a shackled nation and, has a power to liberate.” 

Muziwakhe Nhlabatsi is best known for his representations of political themes that were published in the progressive media in the 1970s and 1980s. He worked as a graphic artist and illustrator for Staffrider and SACHED Trust. 

He along with Kevin Humphrey and Andy Mason started an underground pre-print organization Graphics Equalizer that produced anti-apartheid media for mass democratic organisations.

Muziwakhe has trained dozens of struggle artists, which included Zanele Mashinini, Neo Makhonya, Jasper Galela, Philip Malumise, and Linda Ward and many more. 

1994 - 1997: Various computer training courses, Hirt & Carter training school, Johannesburg; Parkhill Technologies, Johannesburg. 
1993: Management of Book Production, British Consulate, Johannesburg. 
1988: Creative Publications Design, SACHED Trust, Johannesburg. 
1980: Archie Legatts Fashion Academy, Johannesburg. 
1976-1977: ELC Art and Craft Centre, Rorkes Drift, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. 
1970-1971: Mofolo Art Centre under Dan Rakgoathe, Mofolo Village, Soweto, Johannesburg. 
1969-1972: Jubilee Art Centre under Bill Hart, Johannesburg. Exhibitions (solo) 

1972: Gallery of African Art, Johannesburg - Exhibitions (group): 

2006: Ubuntu - Striving for life and Peace, Durban Art Gallery, Durban. 
1981: Black art today, Jabulani Standard Bank, Soweto, Johannesburg. 
1979: Contemporary African art in South Africa, De Beers Centenary Art Gallery, University of Fort Hare, Alice. 
1976: New in the sun, Auden House, Johannesburg. 
1975: Tribute to courage (with Fikile Magadlela, Percy Sedumedi, Winston Saoli and Nats Mokgosi), Diakonia House, Braamfontein, Johannesburg. 
1975: Young artists, International Play Group Inc., Union Carbide Building, New York. 
1974: Group of six (with Fikile Magadlela, Anthony Miyeni, Mervin Davids, Johnny Ribeiro and Percy Sedumedi), Atlantic Art Gallery, Cape Town. Botswana National Museum, Gaberone, Botswana. 
1972: Art of the townships, Gallery of African Art, Johannesburg. 

Publications (illustrations): 

1988: Down Second Avenue: The comic, Ravan Press, Johannesburg. Maria Mabetoa, A visit to my grandfather's farm, Ravan Press, Johannesburg. 
1987: Staffrider, vol. 6 no. 4, Ravan Press, Johannesburg. Mbulawa A. Mahlangu, Igugu lamaNdebele, Skotaville Publishers, Johannesburg. 
1986: Gabriel Setiloane, African theology: An introduction, Skotaville Publishers, Johannesburg. 
1985: Essop Patel (ed), The world of Nat Nakasa, Ravan Press, Johannesburg. 
1984: Eskia Mphahlele, Father come home, Ravan Press, Johannesburg. 
1983: Bheki Maseko, The night of long knives, Staffrider, vol. 5 no. 3. 
1982: Mbulelo Mzamane, The children of Soweto, Harlow: Longman, Cape Town. Eskia Mphahlele, Over my dead body, Staffrider, vol. 4 no. 4, pp 10-12. Mothobi Mutloatse, Mama ndiyalila, Ravan Press, Johannesburg. 
1979: Chabani Mnganyi, Looking through the keyhole, Ravan Press, Johannesburg. 

Publications (books, exhibition reviews): 

2004: Elza Miles, Polly Street: The story of an art centre, The Ampersand Foundation, New York. 1992: E. J. De Jager, Images of Man: Contemporary South African Black art and artists, Fort Hare University Press, Alice. 
1975: Elliot Makhaya and Eric Mani, Art in the Van Gogh tradition, The World newspaper, Thursday, July 10. Vusi Khumalo, Big Art show for Jo'burg City, The World newspaper, September 18, p 11. Elliot Makhaya, Mum doesn't appreciate, The World newspaper, Wednesday, March 12. 
1974: Eldren Green, Black artists, The Argus, October 17. Group of six at the Atlantic, Cape Times, October 22. 

1999-2005: Senior industrial technician, Gauteng Provincial Government, Johannesburg. 
1987-1998: Graphic artist, Maskew Miller Longman, Johannesburg. 
1986-1993: Graphic artists, SACHED Trust, Johannesburg. 
1986-1987: Graphic artist, The Graphic Equaliser, Johannesburg. 
1979-1981: Graphic artist, SACHED Trust (Turret College), Johannesburg. 
1978-1979: Make-up artist, Hollywood Display (Multiform), Johannesburg. 
1978: Art teacher, The Open School, Johannesburg. 
1974: Art teacher, YWCA Vukuzenzele Children's Art Centre, Soweto. Awards: 
1979: UTA Airways Fashion Design Competition, Johannesburg. 
1970: Merit prize, Chamber of Commerce art competition, Johannesburg. Collections De Beers Centenary Art Gallery, University of Fort Hare. 

Current: Runs a computer generated digital art studio in Soweto. 

Matsemela Manaka (1955-1998): 

Producer, choreographer, painter, sculptor, writer, poet, drummer, playwright, political activist, and Black consciousness cadre. 

“We believe in positive art, theatre of purpose, communal theatre, theatre of survival and liberation."   
The 1976 Soweto uprising gave impetus to the late Matsemela Manaka’s career in theatre and the arts. Matsemela Manaka was a writer, director, actor, poet and cultural theorist. 

He grew up in the Alexandra township of Johannesburg. Attended Soweto's Madibane High School during the mid-'70s and later taught there. Manaka's career was characterised by his involvement in many different artistic and literary activities. 

An unusual talent for poetry, sculpting, painting and drama had been identified at a tender age. With the support of his family, a rigorous programme of self-education saw him emerge as a pioneer in the middle of the education crisis, which resulted from the Soweto riots in 1976. Between I970-81 he was the editor of Staffrider, a black art and literary magazine. 

Matsemela rubbed shoulders with some of South Africa’s greatest artists. Increasing international discourse on apartheid led in 1986 to an invitation to attend a symposium in Dakar (Senegal) together with Breyten Breytenbach, Miriam Tladi, Miriam Makeba, Johnny Clegg, and others. Around that time, Manaka directed Caiphus Semenya’s play, Buwa. The opportunity to direct such eminent musicians as Hugh Masikela and Jonas Gwangwa (who wrote the music for the film Cry Freedom) was a major milestone in Matsemela’s artistic journey. 

Matsemela’s contribution to the Visual Arts is captured in Echoes of African Art, a compilation of visual art images spanning over a century. The work was described by Eskia Mphahle as “… a delightfully informative gallery of African art by South African practitioners”. 

It was Manaka’s fervent wish that “after liberation our theatre shall celebrate our life and remain an integral part of our culture of the new day. The dedication of his seminal play Ekhaya summed up is sense of what he perceived as the challenges ahead: 

The range of Matsemela’s work up to 1991 consisted of several plays and performances. These were, chronically: 
• The Horn; 
• Egoli – City of Gold; 
• Imbumba; 
• Blues Africa; 
• Vuka, Pula; 
• Children of Asazi; 
• Domba – The Last Dance; 
• Siza; 
• Musium Over Soweto; 
• Koma; 
• Toro – The African Dream; 
• Gore; 
• Blues Africa Café; 
• and Ekhaya. 

Over the 1997 – 1991 period Matsemela wrote and generally staged– one play per year. Concurrently he wrote poetry; some of his early work was published in Staffrider, but much has remained unpublished. 

Fikile Patrick Magadlela (1952-2003): 

Struggle artist, musician, poet and political activist. 

 “I started drawing on my parents’ walls from as early as I could remember!” 

Fikile Patrick Magadlela (or Magadledla) was born 13 December 1952 in Newclare, Johannesburg South Africa. Magadlela died in 2003. Fikile grew up in a politicised home. His parents and maternal grandmother were imprisoned in the 1960s and in 1984 Fikile was also incarcerated. 

Fikile, was the leading exponent of the principles of the Black Consciousness Movement in the visual arts in South African observed ‘Black Art is an important facet of Black Consciousness and Black artists are very conscious of their heritage’ (Black Art Today, 1981) 

Reading books his father bought and getting knowledge from older people. He dropped out of High school in standard 8 (10th grade) to work as a full-time artist. Magadlela was relatively self-taught but he spent many hours with fellow artists exchanging ideas and techniques. 

Magadlela worked closely with artists such as Ezrom Legae, Solly Maphiri, Winston Saoli, Percy Sedumedi, Pietro Cuzzolini and Harold Jeppe who became his mentor, introducing him to art circles in Johannesburg. 

His most renowned work was entitled “Birth of The Second Creation” a series of drafted, mystical landscapes showing an African man and woman in flowing drapery and overwhelming clouds. 

Later Magadlela would do bolder landscapes with similar characters using more colour and poetry. His first exhibition first solo exhibition was at the Goodman Gallery then owned by Linda Givon in 1978. 

Berman Gallery 1992. Retrospective at the UNISA Art Gallery 1995 

Ingoapele Madingoane: 

“They came from the west sailing to the east with hatred and disease flowing from their flesh!” 

Poet and social activist, Ingoapele Madingoane, is considered the doyen of modern, politically conscious oral poetry. The late Madingoane was a formidable member of the 1976 Black Consciousness Sowetan poets. He wrote the famous, evocative, mini-epic poem, “Africa my Beginning”, which was published by Ravan Press in Johannesburg in 1979 and banned by the apartheid authorities two months later. 

Madingoane performed the poem widely in Soweto, accompanied by Mihloti Black Theatre’s flutes and drums. It became a regular feature during the protest rallies and funerals of anti-apartheid activists. 

He has had an indelible impact and influence on the post-apartheid generations of poets, including world-renowned poets Lesego Rampolokeng, Siphiwe ka Ngwenya and Kgafela oa Magogodi.

Madingoane was honored with a SALA Literary Posthumous Award in 2007, nine years after his death, owing to a long illness. 

Africa my Beginning 

They came from the west 
Sailing to the east 
With hatred and disease flowing 
From their flesh 
And a burden to harden our lives 
They claimed to be friends 
When they found us friendly 
And when foreigner met foreigner 
They fought for the reign 
Exploiters of Africa 

Africa my beginning 
And Africa my ending 
They asked Mugabe 
Unataka nini hapa 
Wewe mwenyewe 
He said binadamu zote 
Ni ndugu zake za 
Africa Nimefika nirudishie 
Nchi zaZimbabwe 
Mimi ni mwenyewe 

In Africa my beginning 
And Africa my ending 
Suckers of my country 
They laid their sponges 
Flat on its soil and absorbed its resources 
To fill their coffers 
Agostinho had spoken in the language of poets 
That they went away in multitudes 
And forgot their hearts behind 
But late is never a bad start in 

Africa my beginning 
And Africa my ending 
No easy way to freedom 
Ten lonely years black hopeful men 
Food being their wish 
Courage their pay 
Until Africa was respected 
For a leader had emerged 
From the bush to Maputo 
Viva Frelimo 

Africa my beginning 
And Africa my ending 
I remember Ja Toivo 
Namibia is not lost 
Nujoma is not idle he’d be coward if he was 
You might as well know Germany is no more in 

Africa my beginning 
And Africa my ending 

Azania here I come from apartheid 
in tatters in the land of sorrow 
from that marathon bondage 
the sharpville massacre 
the flames of Soweto 
I was there 
I will die there 

In Africa my beginning 
And Africa my ending 

Harry Mohaga: 

Nkoane Moyaga, like Fikile Magadlela, Leonard Matsoso (qv.) and Thami Mnyele responded to the call of the Black Consciousness movement as articulated by Steve Biko: 

“black consciousness has to be directed to the past to rewrite the history of the black man and to produce in it the heroes who form the core of the African background’.1 In line with their convictions they explored the beauty of being black. Instead of representations of poverty in the townships and an oppressed people, they interpreted and celebrated their legendary past.” 

Artist and musician 

Harry Moyaga; saxes, flutes and keyboards. Born on 12 January 1945 in Polokwane, Limpopo. He is also a visual artist who is based in London. Apart from interaction with artists such as Cyprian Shilakoe (qv.), Bill Ainslie and Fikile Magadlela, it was Moyaga’s mother who played the dominant role in his formation as an artist. She kept alive their traditional religion alongside Christianity.

Consequently, her death was a traumatic experience. Moyaga believes that her influence still sustains him in his quest to express the link between daily life and the ancestral presence. In about 1971, when he took his first job at a business concern in Polokwane (Pietersburg), Moyaga began to make drawings that mirrored his spiritual experiences. Once, on an errand to a client’s house, he chanced to see a fascinating painting. This led to a conversation between Moyaga and the client, who asked 
Moyaga to show him some drawings. He bought one of them and then introduced Moyaga to Brother Bral, who became his first teacher. 

Moyaga worked at two tourist shops before he moved to Francistown in Botswana where he now lives. The first was at Papatso, near Hammanskraal, and the second in Pretoria at a souvenir shop in Hatfield, where he modelled in clay. These models were cast in bronze for the tourist market. While working at Papatso he met Cyprian Shilakoe (qv.) with whom a friendship ensued and with whose art he sincerely identifies. 

Nkoane Moyaga, like Fikile Magadlela, Leonard Matsoso (qv.) and Thami Mnyele responded to the call of the Black Consciousness movement as articulated by Steve Biko: 

“black consciousness has to be directed to the past ”¦ to rewrite the history of the black man and to produce in it the heroes who form the core of the African background’.1 In line with their convictions they explored the beauty of being black. Instead of representations of poverty in the townships and an oppressed people, they interpreted and celebrated their legendary past.” 

They developed unique techniques of mark-making which differ from conventional hatching, crosshatching and shading. Moyaga applies a technique, reminiscent of pointillism. These dots radiate rays to simulate tiny stars, dandelion seeds or seeds of the bidens species. By using signs resembling celestial bodies or vegetation, Moyaga links sky and land to symbolize the endless universe and infinite life. Before Moyaga begins to work, he meditates until he establishes contact with the ancestral spirits. Only when he has merged with them does he paint the visions they have inspired in him. In Modimogadi wa nong (plate 219) he interprets the supremacy of the Northern Sotho deity, Modimogadi, the Great Mother. 

Though she protects all living beings, provides food and rules the rainfall, in this instance she appears as the vulture-goddess. Of all the birds, she has endowed the vulture with the keenest olfactory sense. Now merging with the vulture, which is her male counterpart, she leads him to a feast of abundance. There he will rip the liver from the carcass and devour it; then the other birds, already advancing, will join them. 

Exhibitions and Books: 
Elza Miles1 Stubbs, A, (ed.). 
1979. I Write what I Like: Selected Writings of Steve Biko. Bowerdean Press: London. p. 29. Nkoane Harry Moyaga Born Polokwane, Limpopo, 1954. 

1971-1976: Private Art School of Brother Bral, a Roman Catholic priest, Polokwane. c. 
1977: Bill Ainslie Studios, 

Johannesburg. Exhibitions 
1976: Solo exhibition, Nedbank Building, Killarney, Johannesburg; Solo exhibition, Australian Embassy, Pretoria. 

1977: Solo exhibition, Stuttgart, Germany. 

1978: Man, Beast and Ancestors, Waterfront Gallery, Cape Town; World in conflict, SAAA, Pretoria. Impande yo siko (Roots of heritage), French Embassy, Pretoria. 

1980: Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg. 

1981: Black Art Today, Standard Bank, Jabulani, Soweto. 

1982: Art toward social development. An Exhibition of South African Art, National Museum and Art Gallery, Gabarone, Botswana. 

1995: Solo exhibition, Gauteng Art Gallery, Caroline Street, Brixton, Johannesburg. Collections De Beers Centenary Art Gallery, University of Fort Hare, Alice. 

Andy Mason: 

Communications professional, visual artist, curator, historian, freelance cartoonist, editor, writer specialising in comic art and graphic literature. 

Andy Mason was born on the 11 August 1954 in Pietermaritzburg. He also works as a freelance writer, cartoonist and editor. He has a Masters degree in cultural and media studies from the University of Natal (now KwaZulu Natal). And, 30 years of experience in South African publishing and communications work, mainly in the development sector. 

Andy Mason is head of CCIBA’s Comic Art Unit. After university he focused on creating anti-apartheid cartoons. Mason's work appeared in publications by Ravan Press and Sached Trust, as well as magazines like Staffrider and Upbeat. He founded Durban Comix, as well as the satirical periodical PAX (Pre-AzanianComix), in which appeared his popular 'The Big Chillum' series. 

He published under the pen names N.D. Mazin and Pooh, his underground comix, some of which go all the way back to the 1970s, include Cogent & amp; Crint, Vittoke in Azania, The Big Chillum, The Vittokes, The Legend of Blue Mamba, New Planet TV and The Artist’s Life. His self-published ‘zines, in which these comics have appeared, include PAX (Pre-Azanian Comix), Mamba Comix and The Artist’s Life use. 

He created the popular 'Sloppy' strip (together with Mogorosi Motshumi, published for ten years in Learn and Teach), a humorous opera about the history of South Africa and the comic New Ground. He co-founded Artworks Communications in Durban in 1989, an educational agency focused on subjects such as AIDS, tourism, education and art. From 1994, Mason has produced illustrations and comics on topics such as democracy, civil rights and education. 

He has written, edited, art directed, illustrated and published a wide range of publications, from underground comix, illustrated training manuals and cartoon anthologies to legal and academic textbooks, high-level technical reports and policy briefs. His work as a of South African cartooning is reflected in ‘What’s So Funny?’ 

He joined the Ithunga Art Project in 1999, drawing for Mamba and AIDS Sex News. Until 2007, he worked as creative director at Artworks Communications in Durban (which he co-founded in 1989), but following a midlife artistic crisis he retired from business to become a penniless author. 

Bibliography 2001: 'Africa Ink: Cartoonists Working Group, Towards an Association of African Cartoonists: Report of an International Workshop on Cartoon Journalism and Democratisation in Southern Africa,' International Journal of Comic Art. Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 2001 

2003: Mamba Comix. Published by the Artworks Durban cartoon Project and edited by Andy Mason and Rico Schacherl. 

1989 – 2008: Co-founder and creative director of Artworks Communications (Durban) between he assisted many organsations in the development of their organisational identities, communication strategies and publications programmes. 

2009: Centre for Comic, Illustrative and Book Arts at Stellenbosch University, contributed to the development of South African cartooning and comic art through academic research and publication, editing and publishing local anthologies of comic art, as well as organising and curating a number of group exhibitions, workshops and public events. 

2009: Don’t joke! The Year in Cartoons. Eds. Mason, A, Curtis, J. Johannesburg: Jacana Media. 

2010: Just for kicks! Johannesburg: Jacana Media 

2011: Co/Mix exhibition at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. 

2011: What's so funny? - Under the skin of South African cartooning. Claremont: Juta Double Storey

2013: He held his first solo exhibition at the Alive Café in Muizenberg. Under the Skin of South African Cartooning (Double Storey Books, 2010), and he has also co-edited two anthologies of South African political cartoons – Don’t Joke! and Just For Kicks! (Jacana Media, 2009-10), as well as Graflit: Graveyard Literature in Black & amp; White (CCIBA, 2013), an anthology of contemporary South African graphic literature. In 2013 he self-published The Legend of Blue Mamba (PreZanian Communications, 2013), a graphic novel. 

Left to right: Ingoapele Modingoane, Fikile Magadlela, Harry Moyaga, Andy Mason, Mtsemela Manaka an Muziwakhe Nhlabatsi at the Staffrider offices - discussing Harry Moyaga's artwork. Photo by Biddy Partridge.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The last One Man Show - of Enoch Mandlenkosi Tshabalala

In loving memory Funeral programme of the late Enoch Mandlenkosi Tshabalala Born: 08 December 1941 Died: 29 July 2015 Date: 8 August 2015 The last One Man Show - Obituary Enoch Mandlenkosi Tshabalala was the second born. Born under the cosmic Sagittarius star sign on the 08th December 1941 in Balfour, Mpumalanga to the loving beautiful couple namely; Lesiah his mother and the formidable Elijah Tshabalala his father. His late brother was Albert Mafika Tshabalala the first born. In 1945, his family moved to Johannesburg when he was four years old. They first moved into the popular Kliptown township - on the periphery of Johannesburg were the Freedom Charter was written, and settled Masakeni, in Moroka - later in Soweto in Zola 2, in the year that it was established. Soon, after this Tshabalala contracted Polio. After treatment at the Johannesburg General Hospital, he was bedridden for a long time. This was a major set-back in terms of his schooling life. When he regained the use of his arms, his mother brought him coloured crayons and paper, and he began to draw his surroundings which showed his hidden artistic talent. He also took a keen interest in music. In 1959, and later he became instrumental in the formation of a music group, the Moroka Bright Boys, and they also premiered in shows for the Manhattan Brothers; he loved jazz and gospel music. A neat and fine dresser, who chose only the best, ask those who know him very well. His career spanned five decades in the arts and craft field. He was employed to paint Curios in an Art & Craft store, where he met his longtime colleague the late Durant Sihlali. He was later encouraged to study under the late famous artist Cecil Skotnes at the Polly Street Art Centre where most Soweto’s budding artists crafted their skills – due to apartheid laws they could not study in white’s only Colleges of Art and Universities. A major influence on his artistic career was his meeting with the late Dumile Feni and Durant Sihlali, in 1964, and after this his style of art shifted towards Feni’s to a notable degree, this is evident in the Expressionism in a couple of artworks by Tshabalala. In 1980 he got married to the ever loving beautiful daughter of the Meso family – Sibongile Margaret Tshabalala who was the love and support of his life through thick and thin situations of their life, she looked after him from the day they met right to the last days. She gave him the most beautiful family of four boys, right from Nhlanhla, Siyabonga, Sicelo and Mduduzi. He loved them with all his heart. He thanked God that he had the rare opportunity to steal hugs and kisses from his grand-children’s innocent and smashingly gorgeous little faces – right from Ntokozo, Thando and Lungelo. He continued to live and work in Soweto, Zola 2, until he met his untimely death. Tshabalala started sketching and drawing the people around him, and the birds and trees he saw looking out his window. He worked well with all mediums, but prefered watercolour and acrylics. Tshabalala has participated in many group exhibitions throughout Cape Town and Johannesburg. His work is found in several corporate art collections in and around South Africa, as well as in private collections around the world. And to add more challenge, Enoch added taxi signwriting, with some creative flare using his now famous ‘Umbhalo ohlangene’ a reference to the cursive writing that has become his trade mark or brand style. Malebese is one of the corporate NPO’s he painted for, including Shandu’s Taxis, Mr. Mazibuko’s Taxis, and the Faraday Taxi Association where he wrote nearly all their taxis including the Dorjota Taxi Association – later due to ill health one of his sons assisted him in the signwriting jobs. Lala ngoxolo, Dvonga. Mabuza, Mshengu Tshabalala Ludvonga lwaMavuso waNgwane Sidvwaba sil’thuli Singaba Mtolo, sifute ekhabonyoko Sithi sibancwaba beza naMlandzakati, Nine baseMhlongamvula, enathi uMhlangamvula udilikile Kanti benemanga boTshabalala, bafihl’ indod’ emsamo Bentel’ abantfwana babafokatane bezabalele Bet(z)a behlab’ emva nangembili Sithi bayeta baphelel’ endleleni Smahla’ esihle esimabizwa yiNdlovu Oyay’ eMbo wabuyelela Lowacedza LuBombo ngokuhlehletela Nahlokota timbhil’ emgedzeni Taphuma tasabalala busaphalala Nkonkoni enhle yaseMangwaneni naseMavaneni Oval’ isibaya ngamakhand' amadoda, Abanye bavala ngamahlahla Simancamanca mathang' amahle Ngathi awentombazane Nkonjan’ emhlophe edlalel’ emafini Engabonwa muntu, kodvwa Mswati kuphela Awucedvwa Mshengu

Nathaniel “Nats” Mogosi Eulogy

Date of Birth: 1943-02-28 Date of Death: 2016 -03-30 Date of Burial: 2016-04-09, Lenasia.
Nats was a gentle man who was loved by all who came into contact with him, whether fellow artists, students or other people. He was always pleasant, never sought confrontation and the testimony to that is all of us here today. Nat’s and Percy Sedumedi were the first art teachers at The Open School in 1974 and together with Molefi Mololokeng who did drama and Les Carelse who did dance they formed the nucleus of The Open School. We started with a programme in town, mainly after school and on Saturdays but soon started teaching at several schools in Soweto in the afternoons and a farm school in Witkoppen on Saturdays. This didn’t last long as the System got word of us and we were kicked out. No problem, we switched to community centre’s mainly run by churches. On top of that we started presenting drama, dance performances and art exhibitions on Saturday afternoons at these community centre’s. Nats and the art team did props and posters for the shows. We also tried formal art exhibitions but that didn’t work very well. But when we displayed the student work we got a huge response. Better still before a performance we would set out roles of news print on the floor and with charcoal. Nats and the team would get the audience at it, mothers and fathers and other youngsters drawing and we would put the completed work up as our exhibition and that really created excitement. Yes we worked up a storm and really mobilised an interest among young people in the arts. Nats and I worked together for the next ten years and we developed a life-long friendship which endured throughout. Together with Joe Ndlovu he was the longest serving art teacher/head of art at The Open School and he inspired many young people some whom became artists and others who just became good people. I should mention Johannes Phokela who I think is here. He started off with Nats whom I know inspired him when he was about 8 years old and has gone on to great heights. I was always fascinated with Nats’ art work and I always said to him that he was transferring a sculptural tradition to paintings and drawings. I am pleased to say that I have a few of these in my possession which I treasure and they occupy pride of place in my home. I also have a few sculptures that he experimented with at The Open School. We went through very challenging times and defied many of the System laws and attitudes and created a moving space for young people to develop cognitive and expressive skills through the work we did. And we also had a lot of fun though out it all! Farewell dear Nats, you will be greatly missed. By Colin Jiggs Colin Smuts 8th April 16 - 2016

Monday, February 9, 2015

Monday, May 10, 2010

A tribute to Dinkies Sithole

A tribute to Dinkies Sithole – One of the most gifted Soweto’s selfless social artists
what a gentle god
what a gem,
what a genius,
what a genesis,
what a genuine general,
what a great guy,
what a guru of our generation
and what a grandmaster of our time.

Eish! Eish! Eish! Dinkies Sithole!

Where once was your voice, remains warm memories. Memories, as priceless as those pieces of art works, you once created our own god of the art. In our hearts of hearts, we dedicate a space for a graffiti wall with an apt homage: Today … oh life … oh life, Dinkie Sithole’s rich a kaleidoscope of worshipped collections, comes to an abrupt end. Let us celebrated his life and works, and remember him for his generosity of spirit. Some of us have salivated before your work, like hungry teenagers who cannot get enough of exclusive sumptuous cuisine.

You have now taken a flight to world unknown to humanity, disappearing once and for all from the horizon. Now all of a sudden it has dawn on us that we have never known you. You’re always played us like those countless canvasses with your bold signatures. How come we so stunned about your departure, if we knew what was on hand? The many handshakes and the pleasantry we exchanged mean so much to us. Our hearts holds on to all those art pieces, you gave us an opportunity to connect with. Unfortunately it will take some doing to repatriate those masterpieces from our memories.

Anyhow, we are left so rich spiritually, physically and otherwise. We surely have had a privilege of walking side by side with a time tested fighter baked from our own backyard. It’s a pity the art world here at home didn’t celebrate you accordingly by according you the respect and reverence you deserved. We witness in aghast as you dig up your accolades in Europe and some parts of our continent.

Maybe it’s not a pity; it has now become a norm for many to of us to witness this ludicrousness. It’s normally said that prophets are not crowned and recognized in their own country of birth. You did us so proud. Commendation to you Dinkies Sithole! Just image a youngster from the streets of townships studying in Scotland through his owns initiative and going on to conquer the continent and the world. The same cannot be said of some of us, we remain on the margins, although had hoodwink you in believing we too we able to do it on our own without the support of the system.

Eish! Dinkies we have know you as an artist par excellence. A world class celebrated creator, an unpretentious poet, a dance who cheated death many a time whilst the sound of gun fire from the conscripts rained in Soweto. This is a part of history that many didn’t know. You never talked about your activism escapades, except in passing. You were such a daring youngster, full of vim and willing to sacrifice limb and life to liberate our country.
Yes, you will be remembered as a dapper of note, an African son of the soil, whose well kept dreadlocks complemented your bright and friendly face succinctly. To most of Orlando East residence, you were more like a boy from next door. You spoke our own language and share in our joy and pain, even when some wanted to elevate you to the status of demigod and feted you like Royalty. You politely refuse to comply and instead remain firmly rooted on the ground.

Most of us at your invitation use to retreat to your studio at Bag Factory, and eat from the palm of your hands. Not one willing to be misunderstood, for hours on end, you use to lecture every soul who lend you an ear passionately about your works. Your assertive yet warm demeanour, lives through the colourful body of work, confidently cooked day and night on your canvass.

We remember you as an unapologetic straightforward and outspoken artist. When some had sought sanctuary in the private or public sector, you chastised us for taking the easy route out. If a legend falls, our solemn pledges sounds like verses from one of your dark poem. When we had, had to sob your departure, everything else mimics your sorrowful tap dance routine.
Whenever we feel robbed of an exceptional talent, some of us walk down the memory lane and remember the patterns you once played in the company of Tlale Makhene, Mmonna Mashinini and Thebe , Colin Tshabalala and many more youngsters from the township of Orlando East under who studied under the tutelage of the late Jacky Simele.

Your reluctance to give in to the status quo has taught to never cow. You were able to achieve so much on your own without knocking on those steel bar doors. Simply put, you were your own man, and managed at your age to cultivate your own pathway.

When you had cautioned that “our generation must learn not to point fingers, and that our generation must be respected for doing it on their own!” Some took your advice with a pinch of salt. No we know we must refuse to be underdogs and not wait for some crump to be thrown our way, we need to take our own initiatives!

Like your icon and role model Michael Jackson you are GO TO SOON. Our only consolation is that your spirit will always be with us. The wink of the candle of Orlando East, which has burnt itself in the arts fraternity to give light to others, has been put off. It proper and fitting to ask of you to send fraternal greetings to Koto Mkhuma, Jacky Simela, Matsemela Manaka, Dumile Feni, Bra Winston Saoli, Fikile Magadlela, Durant Sihlali, Ben Macala, Eli Kobeli, Sydney Khumalo, Percy Sedumedi, Gerald Skoto, Dan Rakgoathe, Philip Malumise and a host of other artists who enriched our lives.

Gracelessness never featured in your vocabulary. Your rich contours spoke to handiness. Now we shall take to life and doff our hats off to you. We are grateful to have had you as our soul mate and one of the most dependable brother, comrade, friend, family member, acquaintance and artist’s ambassador.

Within our ranks God gave us a gift, an astounding thinker, a polished philosopher, a social activists and a stimulating fellow traveler, who never shied away from questioning. Most of us who have had the pleasure of interrogating you, will miss your brashness, robust intellect and above all warm spirit. Who can forget your unmatched disposition of allowing others spaces within your studio to intrude and loom large as you labour laboriously creating those varied images?

Now that the paint has dried forever in all of your canvases. We feel you in our own veins. Obituary can be written; verses can be crafted; our pens may drip with sweet tributes; and may come with poignant eulogies. Yet, none could best write an appropriate elegy like you.

Knowing you, you were fond of the smell of words. Likewise I suspect you wasted no time in writing homage to yourself. We imagine you hastily packing your entire bags ready to read the content on your way upon uniting with your clan. There’s no doubt in our mind that you were an unpredictable character. You told us about the Bamako Mali Exhibition yet omitting to share with us the details of your pending exit from mother earth. These anticlimaxes if one consider how open you were come as a shock. “Come to my studio and check my creation, I would be out of the country for this long, sounded your beautiful immodest voice every time you were going elsewhere. You were always updating, in the best and worst of times.

Within a short space of time, we had known you, you managed to touch us in many ways. You, thought us to be humble and remain true to our own convictions and principles, even when our own world crumble before our own eyes. For someone who has wow audience in far flung capital of the world, you refuse to go about as if you own the world. There was no air about you; you deliberately choose to remain an integral part of the poor and insolvent.

Your beautiful smile has always inviting us to join you for a coffee. Such was your creation! Constantly, and so often, you talked your mind. You were as fearless as a general who leads from the front. “Artists, need to know that they must churn their own destiny! Artists are not supposed to be praise singer! Artists must not be going around with their hands capped and beg for contaminated funds!” the above statement was your mantra. For some of us, who had known you as a knee high lad we admired your candor.

Some in our midst categories you as a multimedia artist, some referred to you as an eccentric tap dancer, others a documentary photojournalist and the rest of us as a prophetic poet. In your life you never wore any of the above designation with any honour. You remained firmly rooted on the ground like a committed general.

Today the paint is now permanently dry on the canvass. Our own life which forms a greater part of your creative pool, asks questions. We think it’s a premature death. But, for some who had witnessed you light up the stage, dazzle the artwork, and bewitch with your verses, reluctantly accepts your departure, because your enthusiasm was unparalleled, you locked yourself in the studio like someone possessed and in a hurry to create and leave us behind.

Your brushes will surely miss your gentle touch of yours, your caressing signature is no more. What a voice of reason you were. You were always evocative, elegant and very difficult to pigeon hole. One so young and yet a great giant.

Penned by Zanele Mashinini (African Artists in Action Against AIDS) and Lebo Zulu (Lebo Zulu Creatives)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010