Maswana’s art crystalises ‘the beauty and strength black people possess’

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Maswana's artwork is a look at the black experience from a position of royalty and luxury. Photo: Supplied
Maswana's artwork is a look at the black experience from a position of royalty and luxury. Photo: Supplied

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Since the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine we have been allowed, to some extent, to enjoy life’s simple pleasures again. An art gallery visit is one such pleasure and has allowed us to see Qhamanande Maswana’s first curated exhibition with 99 Loop Gallery.

Maswana, who was born in the Eastern Cape, began his journey at a young age when his parents recognised his talent for fine art and encouraged him to pursue it.

Qhamanande Maswana is creating art that speaks to his everyday life and the black experience in South Africa. Photo: Supplied

“I was about five years old when I did my first artwork. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in preschool. We were given colourful clay and told to create anything that comes to mind. The teacher went out of the classroom so I ended up collecting clay from the classmates who were not using it and built a giant robot.


Maswana says: 

I remember my teacher walking in with great amazement and calling all the teachers to come and see my work. I was still young so I was a bit confused. I just remember them standing over me and complimenting me. That made me feel very special because I knew I did something that other kids couldn’t.


With this his path was set as he continued to hone his talent at Forbes Grant High School and eventually on social media, which gave him the recognition he needed to pursue art full time.

READ: Taking us to Church through art

This time, his art is seen through his exhibition Leaving Behind Yesterday, which takes an intimate look at and explores social stigmas and identity and socio-cultural trends. In the true nature of Maswana, he tackles marginalised groups who find themselves in destitute spaces striving to better themselves and become successful in their own ways.

Qhamanande Maswana and his exhibition Leaving Behind Yesterday at the 99 Loop Gallery in Cape Town Photo: supplied

“I’ve experienced a lot as a young artist in South Africa,” says Maswana. “I have managed to stay open to possibilities in order to step in to the new and fully embrace the present moment.

“My work also challenges narrow ideas and portrays a version of successful life in modern times, which I found to be particularly interesting.”

The artist encourages the viewer to engage with his paintings and to realise that we all have our own ways of life that are determined by what we define as success. This view, however, sometimes differs from what could be popularly defined as elements of status, recognition and prestige. This can be best seen through his work which aims to depict everyday life and its struggle.

Black is blue Maswana's Self Care Sundays. Photo: Supplied

“I’ve drawn inspiration from the conditions around my environment. I see and interact with so many people every day. I approach them, and they usually become the focal point of an artwork I am creating,” says the artist.

READ: Watch | Using art to tackle pollution

Maswana’s paintings catch the eye for their striking depiction of the black body with skin tones of purple and blue. His subjects are often placed in townships and shacks with the colours symbolising royalty and luxury.

“I love painting what I see on the streets, but also my friends and family. I wanted to focus on the beauty and strength black people possess. I see this as my duty as an artist, to recreate the image of these bodies in a new light, one that portrays royalty distinguished in their appearances and innate abilities,” he says, adding that his work gives viewers an insight into untold stories and he hopes viewers will hold the space to stop, connect and engage with the bodies portrayed in his art.


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