Children of a Forgotten Dream
The Dusk and Dawn of Humanity (II) - The Kigali Genocides
In November 2002, on completing the plates for the last lithographs he was to make, Nhlanhla wrote some notes about the images:
I worked and taught children's art with thirteen other artists at different orphanages and schools. At the end of the course we compiled the Khula Udweba handbook for teaching children. Ten years later after the country's second term of democratic government the numbers of orphans and street children have tripled.
In 1980 Zimbabwe was freed but twenty years later there is economic instability. Namibia followed in 1990 and South Africa in 1994. Young people of my generation had been scattered all over central Africa, Europe and as Far East as Russia for military training to combat the colonisers. But today in our "respectful" countries - there is famine, starvation, promise of education un-fulfilled, promised land and work un-fulfilled and so forth. This is extended to a new generation where we have a constant increase in the number of children in the streets. How they survive, God knows and them.
About the prints:
Children of a Forgotten Dream (5 plate lithograph)
It is in this context of social instability that these prints are made. The top part of this image depicts children playing and dancing, the middle section shows objects we use in our daily lives; and the bottom has an empty chair, a stooge figure and an empty table. The yellow stooge figure with a star reflects the elderly "disciplinarians" (The different communitiesı policy making structures societies, and the government). The empty chair has no clear sincere person to occupy it. The empty table symbolises no caretaker for scattered lives. The White horn is a vague empty dream of Africa.
The Dusk and Dawn of Humanity (II) - The Kigali Genocides (4 plate lithograph)
Every war we wage on our enemies destroys lives and economic livelihoods. There is another life waiting for us to cleanse and take care of ourselves, even those who were our "enemies". Thus as a response we have "World Summits"; "United Nations" and so forth. What a waste.
These two lithographs by Nhlanhla Xaba were drawn and proofed at The Artists' Press, in November 2002. Nhlanhla worked in collaboration with Mark Attwood and Joseph Legate for two weeks, after which the prints were approved to print by Nhlanhla. On 9 March 2003, before the prints were editioned, Nhlanhla died tragically in the fire, which burned down Artist Proof Studio. In honour of his memory, we have decided to publish the lithographs as unsigned editions.
Hand printed in a limited edition of 40 numbered impressions, 1 approval to print, 1 Bon à tirer, 3 artistıs proofs, 2 workshop proofs and 2 printerıs proofs.
The artistıs proofs will be given to his three children, and profits from the sale of the prints will go to the Nhlanhla Xaba Family Trust.
Talk to Me
seven colour lithograph
56 x 76 cm
"I am pretty much done with this consultation for now," says Nhlanhla Xaba as he steps back appraising a lithographic printing plate he has been working on for the past few days. Nhlanhla's way of working is as unusual as his creative use of language. He works slowly and considers very carefully every mark he makes. A fellow artist in the studio jokingly remarked that watching him work is like watching a chess game, so careful is his concentration as he decides his next move. The content of the work is what matters to him, the layers of meaning and significance that are embedded in a work. Making art is not something that comes spontaneously or easily to him. He literally has to build a work, one brick at a time. Perhaps this is something he gets from his background, as his grandfather was a builder.
Nhlanhla worked in various media ranging from painting, to printmaking and sculpture. He trained as an art teacher at Funda Community College in Soweto and proceeded to teach both children and adults. Like many other black artists in South Africa, Xaba struggled to carve out a meaningful career for himself as an artist.
Between 1977 and 1979 he worked as an ordinary labourer at Jabula Milling Company in Springs and after raising enough money he went back to school to pursue his Matric studies, which he completed in 1981. As early as the seventies Xaba was aware of his artistic potential but opportunities at that time were limited. He was fortunate to have met Madi Phala, an artist and designer, who lived in Springs and who became his first mentor in art. For a period of three and half years Xaba and Madi Phala lived and worked together informally as practising artists.
During this time Xaba began to produce and exhibit work and in 1981 he decided to go to Rorke's Drift, a missionary arts and craft centre in KwaZulu Natal. Rorke's Drift was the main centre at which many black artists were granted an opportunity to study art, but unfortunately, this was the year during which the centre closed down. On returning to Gauteng, disillusioned, he decided to go back to industry and subsequently joined an egg container manufacturing company, where he worked as a labourer. At the beginning of 1985, he went back to KwaZulu Natal, to the Mangosuthu Technikon where he enrolled for Architectural Drafting studies.
At this institution, he spent one year but could not proceed with his studies due to a lack of funds. The desire to further his artistic endeavours led Xaba to leave his home town (Springs) to join the African Institute of Art at the Funda Centre in Diepkloof, Soweto in 1986. From here onwards, although the struggle continued, a new chapter in his life had begun. Together with other aspiring young artists, he found a home where, for the first time, he was introduced to a consistent and structured arts education programme which was initially linked to the Fine Arts Department of the University of South African and later to the Wits Fine Art and History of Art Departments for accreditation purposes.
Since then, opportunities opened up and Xaba participated in numerous local and international exhibitions. At the time of his death Xaba was in the process of completing his BA (FA) degree at the University of South Africa.
"In my art I attempt to convey a painters struggle. I am concerned with shifting boundaries mental and physical. On the canvas and in life, these boundaries are continuously shifting and are complex, centred on the economics and politics of place and time, also geography and physical space. These boundaries are also the urban and the rural, the contemporary and traditional. I attempt to convey - not the simplicity of representation - but a more complex and layered process. Neither the painting nor the approach is an attempt to surprise the viewer - instead it recreates what everyone knows. It reflects the process of life and living."
Make a purchase enquiry for one of the Nhlanhla Xaba's prints.
BORN Payneville, Springs, South Africa
DIED Newtown, 2003, Johannesburg, South Africa
1979 Taught art by Madi Phala, an artist and fabric designer
Matriculated in Tlakula High School Kwa-Thema
Went back to formal education at Funda Art Centre Studying Fine Art with UNISA through the AIOA
1987 1989 Studied Child Art Education and helped with co-worker teachers to compile Khula Udweba Handbook
ART TEACHING AND WORK EXPERIENCE
1990 Participated in Khula Udweba art teachers' project organised at Funda
at the African Institute of Art (USSALEP)
Participated in the American sponsored workshop in drawing and paintings at the Johannesburg Art Foundation, the project was headed by Bill Ainslie, painter Director of Johannesburg Art Foundation
Worked and exhibited in Paris and Switzerland in the Soweto Action Project, directed by a Surrealist painter, Theo Gerber
1987 1990 Taught part-time in communities like: Open School, Pimville, Alexander Art Centre and Othandweni Orphanage with the help of Joint Enrichment Project
1991 1992 Worked with Matsemela Manaka as an assistant curator in founding Soweto Neighbourhood Museum
1993-2003 Co-founder and Studio Manager for Artist Proof Studio, a professional printmaking studio offering rental facilities to artists and printers, classes and workshops in a range of printmaking techniques, collaborations and editioning
1995 Art Tutor, Printmaking division, Fine Art Department, FUBA Academy.
Headed the print workshop at Johannesburg Art Gallery called Pressing Issues
-2003 Art Tutor, Printmaking Division, Fine Art Department, Funda Community College, Soweto
Also Art Tutor at VACA (Visual Art & Craft Academy)
1978 Bayajula Group of the Arts Exhibition at Kwa-Thema Hall
1981 Kwa-Thema Exhibition at Allen Rankinsı Building in Springs
1984 Artimo Exhibition at Market Gallery
1985 Cultural Festival at the University of Zululand
1986 Student Exhibition at Funda Art Centre, Soweto
Natalie Knight Gallery
Thupelo (USSALEP) Exhibition at Johannesburg Art Foundation
Artimo Exhibition at FUBA Gallery
1988 Three Person Exhibition at FUBA Gallery
1992 Two Person Exhibition (with Vincent Baloyi sculptor at The Berman Gallery)
1993 First Print Show, Artist Proof Studio, Market Galleries, JHB
1994 Arts Alive, Steamroller Prints, collagraphs and wood cuts printed by means of steamroller, ICA Gallery, Newtown
1994 De "Afriquea" Afrique, Contemporary African Art, Gallery, Yahia Tunisia
1994 New Realities: A South African Evening Benefit Exhibition for Artist Proof Studio, Staib Gallery, New York
1994 Arts Alive: Artist Proof Studio Exhibition, Berman Gallery, Jhb
1995 Africus Johannesburg Biennale: Volatile Alliances: An International Print Exchange Exhibitions, Participant in the exchange and exhibition of the works 46 artists from 9 countries, Jhb
1996 Exhibition on Tour from Artist Proof Studio
1996 South African Exhibition: Common and Uncommon Ground, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
1996 Jazzpoetry and Jazzart Exhibition, SABC and the Living Arts conceived directed by Matsemela Manaka, Jhb
Alternative Relationships Exhibitions: Printmakers from Gauteng, University of
Stellenbosch Art Gallery, Stellenbosch
Belgium Exhibition Kim Berman and Artist Proof Studio, Frans Masreel Centrum Belgium
1996 Ibis Gallery 'Artist Proof Studio' Print Exhibition Nieu-Bethesda
1996 Images of Human Rights an exhibition commemorating International Human Rights Day (Twenty seven artists from the nine different provinces have been invited to depict a clause from the new South African Bill of Rights, Durban)
1996 Artists for Doctors of the World collaboration with Artist Proof Studio print exhibition Pretoria under the patronage of the Ambassador of France in South Africa
1996 International Print Exhibition at the Vivian & Gordon Gilkey Centre Graphic Art, Art Portland Art Museum, Portland Oregon, USA
1996 Grahamstown Arts Festival Travelling Exhibition
1990 Paintings and Prints at Luca Gansser Studio, Lugano, Switzerland
1992 Paintings and Prints at Berman Gallery
1998 Painting and prints at the Standard Bank National Arts Festival, Grahamstown
1997 Collaborated with an American visiting artist a musical painter and poetic sculptor David Chamberlain in Duets. (Working in painterly monoprints)
1997 Participant in a collaborative bookmaking workshop with visiting USA Book Artist Robin Ami Silverberg called "Emandulo" (Recreation).
1997 Participant in the Artist in residence of a Dutch artist an established member of the famous 'Cobra School' in Europe Corneille, on a monoprint workshop
1999 The 2nd Johannesburg Biennale Fringe participant in the production and exhibition of a large scale print installation, a collaboration with 26 artists headed by Rutgers University Master Printer Eileen Foti
PUBLIC ART COMMISSIONS
1988 Painted stage mural for Sego Dance Performance
Painted murals for Othandweni Orphanage
Painted murals for Artist Proof Studio
1996 Commissioned to reproduce hundred and twenty prints of the Inauguration etching plate for the Department of Foreign Affairs, South Africa
1997 Commission awarded to Artist Proof Studio by the Gauteng Legislature for five Collaborative large scale prints, Assisted in co-ordination of twenty five artists and team leader for one piece
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE COLLECTIONS
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Dr. Lothar Riedel
Department of Foreign Affairs
Johnson & Johnson International, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
Everard Read Dictionary
Echoes of African Art
Africus Institute for Contemporary Art
Researched, compiled and presented a paper The Focus and Significance of Printmaking in South Africa in light of the Cultural, Artistic and Political perspective of Contemporary black South African Artists for the College Art Association (CAA), New York, USA
Standard Bank Young Artist award for 1998