Themba
Khumalo

2019

Emhlabeni reflects the social, political and spiritual landscape in current South Africa, and the understanding of land as identity. Using current news headlines as an entry into some of the injustice the landscape observes ‘Residents kill red ant’ Daily Sun April 11, 2019. Emhlabeni which loosely translates to earth in English, carries far greater meaning in Isizulu, these meaning are made visible through the nuances expressed in the drawings, painting with coffee to mimic the earth and soil tones and use of vernacular titles. With the attempt to saturate the land, the artists look at umhlaba as a piece of land measured through the size of the drawings. These renditions portray pieces of land as witnesses to the dispossession, illegal occupation as protest, loss of hope and yet through Baba Wethu Osezulwini (prayer) the artist depicts land as refugee, a space faith and healing.  Emhlabeni recognises local expression of faith, loss and hope often used in transit between spaces;  kusemhlabeni la, kunzima emhlabeni but often one hears kumunandi emhlabeni. 

 

Statement 2016

My concept is based on my relationships with people. In my work, I explore feelings of connectivity and isolation. I am most comfortable in a designated private space. My biggest fear is rejection and loss. My attempt is to build trust and closer associations with others through my artwork.

There are never human figures in the images. However, electric poles, plugs and cables are the subjects of all the works. These are metaphors for life, energy and movement. The subjects are seen in different contexts, all outside, in a city or landscape. This provides the context. The atmosphere is created by the sky.

I have a digital camera which I take with me wherever I go. I often document scenes between Johannesburg and Orange Farm. I take pictures of spaces and the sky at various times of day. These images are used as reference from which I develop charcoal drawings. Willow charcoal allows for manipulation of form and the blending of tones. These drawings are used as the starting point for the final printed images.

Etching is my chosen printing technique because it enables me to describe the range of tones which are present in the original charcoal drawings. Each work created is intended to capture and evoke a different mood and feeling. For instance in Disconnected, a plug appears abandoned without a cable in the foreground of a vast landscape. In the background are a series of electric poles with no connection to the plug. As in other prints, the atmospheric sky created the tone and atmosphere of the work. In Disconnected, the sky seems threatening as the clouds are dark and heavy.

 

Some works are inspired by particular personal relationships. I shall not forget you, is made in remembrance of my cousin who passed away when I was a teenager. We had grown up together and his death had a profound impact on my life. He is represented by a soccer t-shirt that is lying on the ground.

 

 

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