Winning Nivea artist embraces experience

2008-07-11 00:00

“Beauty is in all of us and all around us. It is something that is not easy to define since its meaning is determined by those who are judging it … I have used my own portrait as a vehicle to test notions of beauty.”

This is the artist’s statement submitted by Durban artist Bheki Khambule for his piece Beauty is Me that won Start, the Nivea Art Award, this week.

Passionate about art, Khambule said that a childhood haunted by poverty and neglect is the backbone of his work. However, other influences include his achievements since then, and everyday experiences. His work, largely bright acrylics and portraiture, has been recognised by top Durban galleries Fresh Paint Gallery and the African Art Centre.

However, Khambule believes that his Start experience will have the biggest influence of all on his work. After the Start finalists were announced in March, Khambule teamed up with a mentor, professional artist Themba Shibase.

“My technique has changed. Up until now, I have simply applied paint on canvas. Now I am using a wash,” he says, adding that he only began using paint in 1996. Up until then he “scratched using pencil and charcoal”.

Khambule discovered his love for art when he was punished for sketching the big five as an eight-year-old in Richards Bay. Throughout his school career, he won numerous competitions, culminating in being chosen to represent South Africa in New Zealand at a Youth Entrepreneurship conference in 2000.

He teamed up with 2005 Nivea Start winner Welcome Danca in 2005 and the two now run Vulindlela Art & Design. Khambule now aims to devote his time and prize money to Vulindlela and to concentrate on producing work for his first solo exhibition at the KZNSA early next year.

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