Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

The Portfolio: Neo Matloga

When I began my residency at De Ateliers in Amsterdam, I was primarily an oil painter. At that time, I took many pictures as a way to document. I came back here and I was also taking a lot of photographs of images from newspapers, magazines, and also family albums. If I saw interesting expressions, I’d snap that.

Living my second year of residency, I felt that oil painting was too sophisticated and I wanted something that would accentuate my rawness. So I started making line drawings; then I started adding some ink to the line drawings. I printed the photos that I had and I started cutting up the faces with scissors, and grouped them according to their features. 

Initially, I had about 48 collages of faces, politicians, sportsmen and -women, family members, musicians and actors. What they had in common was that they are portraits of black people. I arranged them into a grid and titled that installation Black Collages. I then moved on to painting with ink and charcoal and collaging permanently, seeing how these materials cohered.

The drying process of the material I use is quick, so when working I have no choice but to be confident in my execution. The process forces me to be brave. 

As I continued to work with these materials, honing a voice, my output began to take the shape of a political statement without direct intent referencing the racial norms of my environment.

At some point, living in Amsterdam had me frustrated, I was mad at the racial politics in the Netherlands; for example, people having ignorant notions about blackface. I’d come across it in a very subtle way, especially in the streets. What I noticed was that blackface is seen as a distortion by mainly only Dutch black people. In a way, my installation was disappropriating that racist gaze. It was a reaction to many things, and I could say that there was a childishness to the work as I was exploring.

I was and still am drawn to everyday scenes because I wanted to depict people continuing with their lives. Because of the materials I use, the process can be unpredictable, leaving me kind of surprised. I marvel at how characters get into conversation with one another on canvas. Not knowing what the characters were saying was the motivation to make the next painting…

‘Modjadji o stout’ is part of Neo Matloga’s exhibition of mixed-media collages titled Back of the Moon, running at the Stevenson until June 30

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

South Africa breaking more temperature records than expected

The country’s climate is becoming ‘more extreme’ as temperature records are broken

More top stories

US fashion contaminates Africa’s water

Untreated effluent from textile factories in in Lesotho, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius and Madagascar pours into rivers, contaminating the water

Deep seabed mining a threat to Africa’s coral reefs

The deep oceans are a fragile final frontier, largely unknown and untouched but mining companies and governments — other than those in Africa — are eying its mineral riches

Komodo dragon faces extinction

The world’s largest monitor lizard has moved up the red list for threatened species, with fewer than 4 000 of the species left

DA says ANC’s implosion has thrown local government elections wide...

The DA launched its 37-page manifesto on a virtual platform under the banner “The DA gets things done”.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…