Top-flight printmaker takes off

Making his mark: In his major solo show, 'Obsession',Senzo Shabangu reflects on political power and powerlessness, including in the work 'Inequality Between Rich and Poor'(Clarissa Sosin).

Making his mark: In his major solo show, 'Obsession',Senzo Shabangu reflects on political power and powerlessness, including in the work 'Inequality Between Rich and Poor'(Clarissa Sosin).

Printmaker Senzo Shabangu, whose large-scale works are colourful, irreverent and political, is a star on the rise.He was born in Driefontein in Mpumalanga and came to Johannesburg at the beginning of 2006 to become a pilot. Instead he ended up studying printmaking at the Artist Proof Studios in Newtown for three years. After many group exhibitions and a prestigious residency under the mentorship of artist David Koloane at the Bag Factory Studios in Fordsburg, Shabangu is ready to launch his first major solo show at David Krut Projects. Titled Obsession, it reflects on issues of youth, political power and powerlessness with his exploration of service delivery protests.

How big is the show?
It is a solo exhibition consisting of 32 works. It is a very important show to me. Before, I exhibited with a lot of artists, and in the David Krut bookshop.
This is my third solo show with David, but the first one in the big gallery. I also managed to do stuff that I never thought I would do, such as sculpture. We cast some bronze and that was my first.
I never studied sculpture. I have specialised in printmaking and so I turned some of my drawings into objects that you can touch, in 3D. 

Who has been teaching you to cast the bronze and to work with other materials?
I told myself that I don’t want the influence of books. I just wanted to do it myself.  But I was lucky to go to Lesotho where David is connected to some guy there who specialises in ceramics. His name is Patrick Rorke. So I went to stay with him for two weeks and he taught me how to use the wheel.
In my sculpture I wanted to combine human figures with objects such as dishes and plates.

In some of the works one can see a likeness to President Jacob Zuma.
In the print called Sins of our Leaders, I used a reference and I will agree that it’s him. The other two people are just people from my imagination.
What’s happening in the piece is that I am talking about power. I found out that there is a huge gap between the elders and the youth, so my work talks about the power that we are all obsessed with.
I found out that we need to learn a lot, to be given a chance to learn from the elders, as the youth of today. But the title of the show, Obsession, is also about my obsession with art.
At the same time, I am also obsessed with the response of my audience because, where I grew up, I never thought that one day I would be able to see a human being put his hands in his pocket and buy my work. In the work, Bon Appetite, I show my appreciation to my audience. As an artist, one is some sort of chef –what we create is like what we cook.

What do you enjoy eating?
I cook for myself and I am a traditional guy – I eat meat and pap. But I have a fiancée now so she cooks for me. We’ve been engaged since last year. We live in a house in Kensington and we have a baby girl.
I go to Queen Street a lot and, if I’m not in the German pub, then I’m in the local Portuguese restaurant. I love the coffee and the muffins that they do.  On Sunday, I come to Arts on Main. The whole place, including the market, has a soul, a spirit that I really want. The people have energy.
But I am a simple guy. I love eating at home and inviting my friends around.

Are you an art collector?
I exchange and I help artists. Last year I got a work by Sam Nhlengethwa and I have work by my friend, Nelson Makamo. 

Do you read a lot?
I love art books. I love South African artists such as Dumile Feni and William Kentridge. There is a DVD on Dumile that will show at the Bag Factory art space soon.

Do you listen to music while you work?
I love silence. But if I listen to music, I listen to jazz. Charles Lloyd and Hugh Masekela. In vocals, I love Asa from Nigeria. 

Do you have a soundtrack to your life?
Prayer by Charles Lloyd is usually playing in my mind– and the song by him titled Water is Wide.

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse is the arts editor of the Mail & Guardian, a position he has held since 1999. He has edited two anthologies: Positions (Steidl, Jacana Media 2010) about artists engaging with politics in South Africa today, and The Invisible Ghetto (GMP, 1994) a compilation of creative writing about gender. His essays have appeared in collected works about arts and culture here and abroad. He has worked in the theatre for over a decade as an actor, writer and senior publicist at the Market Theatre. Read more from Matthew Krouse


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