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.