"Goust baby" - Velaphi Sylvester Kumwenda (80x30cm)
Ghost Baby is a mixed media piece using acrylic paint and color markers. The idea for Ghost Baby was inspired by the images in the late Credo Mutwa's books, particularly those about the Ngune symbols, with this piece representing future generations. It explores the concept of bringing these symbols into contemporary times, personified through the character of Caroline. The artwork touches on the sensitive issues of child abuse and the reality that some women face with abortion. The lines in the piece symbolize the yin and yang of love, often unspoken and deeply felt, especially in the aftermath of leaving the clinic.
"The Green Mile" - Velaphi Sylvester Kumwenda (50x30cm)
The Green Mile is the latest image I enjoyed creating, using media I am fond of: pen and markers. In the late 70s, as a child, I was introduced to an ink pen by my mother. Without access to paint, the pen became my preferred tool as a fine artist to express emotions. Scrap paper, readily available in our cities, served as my canvases. However, creating 'The Green Mile' on cloth, I found, was much more exciting than on paper.
'The Green Mile' refers to death row, a term used in America. This concept struck me when I watched a documentary on death row. It presented an image of the choices many of us make in life. The first drug for most is alcohol, and when driven by negative emotions, people often seek stronger substances. This leads them down a path of sin, metaphorically making them a 'dead man walking' the Green Mile in the streets.
"Cape Town" - Velaphi Sylvester Kumwenda (152 x 101cm)
Mixed media paint, plastic, and paper on canvas. Cape Town, in the Western Cape, is a town where I stayed for six months. It was shocking to hear the derogatory term 'kaffer' used openly in the streets by some. As a black man, this made me feel unwelcome. However, out of this darkness, I felt compelled to make the canvas surface black. Despite this, one can't help but see the beauty of the Western Cape. Most lines had to be in white, symbolizing that the use of the word 'kaffer' stems from ignorance and fear, much like xenophobia. I was aware of the ships, witnessing the Cape, and the making of castles, all contributing to the rich South African history for both black and white people. I could feel how money was a driving force, the rand fluctuating, with memories of the pound still strong as political stages pulled the puppet strings. Overall, I love Cape Town; it's one of our unique African cities.
"Radio" - Velaphi Sylvester Kumwenda (50x30cm)
Radio, My Friend. Pen and markers on cloth. This artwork was created during a time when I was unafraid to embrace the love of Jesus. It includes a few elements with the cross, but it primarily focuses on the radio."Radio, My Friend. Pen and markers on cloth. This artwork was created during a time when I w
The radio has been a lifelong friend, enlightening me about social events. A significant story from the 70s that caught my attention was the death of Steve Biko, a freedom activist. In old South Africa, the radio often instilled fear in me. However, in the 90s, as freedom dawned, the radio became my guide. I had neither a television nor a home to place one, but the radio was there, teaching me how to vote in '94. By 2010, it was showing me how to use the internet. While a cellphone might be more advanced, I believe a smartphone without a radio function is incomplete. With the radio, I don't need data to stream blogs or music. What I cherish most about the radio is the way I still imagine the voice emanating from the box, just like in my childhood. This image brings me to a relaxing state of mind, reminding me that I have a friend.
"Mirror" - Velaphi Sylvester Kumwenda (50x 30cm)
Pen and markers on cloth, titled 'Mirror'. How often have we been told to go look in the mirror? I believe that most of us look in the mirror mainly to please others. There comes a day when you gaze into the mirror of your soul, and you see the real you. The truth always hurts, especially when you've spent your life looking in the mirror to please others. But when you start to appreciate and love the image created by God, less needs to be said. Did you look in the mirror today?
Johannesburg - Velaphi Sylvester Kumwenda (129x 138cm)
Pen on Fabriano paper. 'Johannesburg, My Eye' – this artwork is my personal view of a city I consider more a large town than the cities depicted in international media. Despite never having traveled abroad, I am proud that Johannesburg is known as the world's largest man-made forest.
I won't delve into the history of Johannesburg as a century-old gold town. Instead, I'll share my personal connection with the city, beginning from my childhood in 1972.
Johannesburg, as I depict it on canvas, is a web of interconnected lives. From Soweto in the South to Sandton in the North, everyone is linked, despite the stark contrast between the township's million-dollar homes and cardboard houses in Sandton. The changes in government have widened the gap between rich and poor, making Johannesburg a survival of the fittest. This city, my birthplace, is a melting pot of cultures, races, and nationalities, all interconnected in the Johannesburg web.
The COVID-19 lockdown brought this web into sharper focus, turning the streets into ghost towns and giving me time to reflect and draw my emotions about Johannesburg. The city wakes early, with people from all corners connecting in shared taxis, where Zulu is the lingua franca. In the Central Business District, interactions occur in Pakistani gadget shops and Nigerian fashion stores, illustrating Johannesburg's cultural tapestry. This diversity is reflected in every aspect of life, from employment opportunities to fashion and personal grooming.The COVID-19 lockdown brought this web into sharper focus,
Through 'Johannesburg', I portray the vibrancy of a city where, despite hate and xenophobia, people of different cultures, religions, and backgrounds come together, sharing the same air and aspirations. The canvas is a testament to our shared humanity, highlighting that, despite our differences, we are one. It's a reminder that in times of crisis, like lockdowns, our need for each other intensifies. Johannesburg, a microcosm of Africa and the world, shows that love and unity can transcend all barriers.
"Border Line" - Velaphi Sylvester Kumwenda (70x84cm)
Mixed media of paints and crayons. 'Border Line' is one of my early images, capturing the sense of cause and hope in the city for a better life. Satellites in the sky symbolize new changes and the act of spying in the name of safety and power.