Tribute to Gabisile Nkosi

2008-06-04 00:00

FOLLOWING the tragic and brutal murder last week of Gabisile Nkosi, many tributes have been paid to the 34-year-old artist and printmaker who was also the programme manager and community co-ordinator at the Caversham Centre. Nkosi was shot in the head by a former boyfriend who broke into her Lidgetton home. After killing her, he shot himself. Nkosi leaves her 13-year-old son, Sandile.

Speaking at her funeral in Umlazi on Sunday, Malcolm Christian, founder and CEO of the Caversham Centre and a close friend of Nkosi, said: “We know that Gabi would want us to smile and transform the awful into the beautiful and that is what we must do. She was a magician in doing this through her creative spirit, her extraordinary ability to find lyrical ways to influence and affect people of all ages and walks of life. Her humanity transcended language, culture and gender and we are charged with the responsibility not only to celebrate a life of a wonderful women artist and mother but to find tangible ways that her unique spirit, vision and inspiration may resonate beyond these tragic times.

“Last year I asked Gabi what her vision was and she answered very simply, ‘Beyond’. We must learn from this profundity and move beyond this event.”

Another close friend, Vulindlela Nyoni from the Centre for Visual Art on the local university campus, had this to say: “We were all devastated by the loss of Gabisile. Again we are reminded of the scourge that is male violence against women in this country. Gabi died at the hands of a man with a gun and it is we men who should be ashamed of the example this one man, among many others, has made true in our lives. Our society’s obsession with patriarchal and phallocentric power is a dead-end road. It leads to violence and death, and it is usually the death of people who are pure in heart, like Gabisile.

“I knew her as a colleague, a counsellor, an artist and fellow printmaker whose lino-cutting skills not many can hold a candle to, a teacher and a friend. She was also a mother, a daughter and sister. Gabisile was a printmaker of the highest calibre and many of us are in admiration and awe at her ability in achieving the most lyrical, poetic and honest depictions of the things that mattered to her most.”

In 1996, in her early 20s, Nkosi attended art lessons at the African Art Centre in Durban, a venue where she would later exhibit her work, most recently last year in an exhibition entitled Ukwelapha (healing). Centre director Anthea Martin writes: “I met her in 2001 at an outreach programme called the Velobala Group that the African Art Centre runs. She taught the classes in 2001. She had exhibited twice at the African Art Centre and her last exhibition was entitled Ukwelapha: Healing, as she was passionately interested in how art could be used as therapy, especially for women who had been abused and damaged through domestic violence.

“In her own words: ‘Through the support of my metaphorical sisters, I found joy and strength, instead of breaking under the pain. I decided to confront it as a challenge for a brighter future, for all children have the right to a happy mother no matter how much heavy baggage may weigh.’ She wanted to use her talents to change lives; ‘to heal, inform and educate, emancipating the innate potential and unique capacity of all human beings’.”

Interviewed in 2006 in The Witness as the subject of a Life Story article, Nkosi spoke about working at the Caversham Centre, where the garden is an old graveyard. “Working here makes you realise that tomorrow you will be one of the graves — and it isn’t a frightening thought. It makes you think about what you would like to leave as a legacy, about your contribution to the world while you are still alive.”

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