Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

The Portfolio: Senzo Shabangu on not being scared of colour

I did this work during lockdown at a time when people couldn’t go to galleries. It affected us big time because we had to rely on social media and the internet and yet, in some ways, art is not made for that. You have to see it live. The galleries come with stories that things are not going well. Sales are down for most artists, because people can’t gather and collectors are holding back.

  The lockdown brought depression to a lot of people, so you had to be strong in your faith, while isolating from people. If your walls are not entertaining you, you have to go somewhere else to be entertained. I felt like the collectors are the blessed ones because they have something to look at while in isolation, be it a sculpture or a collection of works. 

 For this work, I drew inspiration from the story of Noah’s ark. In the piece, the floods are taking over the world’s buildings. I depict some monumental buildings from around the world, including the White House. There is a bird at the top of the small artwork being looked at by the figure dominating the larger one. In Noah’s story, when the floods were almost over, he sent out a dove and after seven days it brought back an olive branch — a sign that the storm was almost over and that land would appear soon. That’s me trying to be positive; to say we’re not the first ones to tread water or to be in a situation like this. The storm will be over if we look from the past into the future. 

The human figure in the painting might be interested in buying an artwork to collect, but he might be checking his pockets as well. It’s a difficult time — everybody is thinking twice because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. 

 I used charcoal because my background is printmaking. Recently, I’ve been revisiting the original way I used to work, which was to draw first before making the print. The piece is a huge charcoal drawing on paper, about 200cm by 100cm. I also use acrylic and a bit of water colour. In the artwork the man is looking at, I use watercolours to make it lighter than the rest of the background. My mother used to buy me a lot of watercolours when I was young, so it  was nice to revisit that. 

Most people who have been seeing my prints think that I’m only a printmaker, forgetting that it all starts with a sketch. 

Printmaking is sort of like an addiction, in the sense that when we become artists, there is a push to produce what people like. I felt really overwhelmed when I was producing only prints and had a sense that I would become scared of colour; hence this work, which is not editioned.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     For more of Shabangu’s works, visit the Melrose Gallery.

Subscribe to the M&G

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.

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

Cape Flats gangsters, children die in fight over turf

Extortion rackets are part of a corrupt system that includes religious leaders, councillors, police and syndicates

Tobacco farmers want the taxman to do more to control...

The Black Tobacco Farmers’ Association the introduction of a minimum price level for cigarettes

More top stories

South Africa moves back to adjusted level 3, schools to...

Vaccination capacity to be increased as the government announces financial support measures for those affected by Covid-19 restrictions and the recent civil unrest

Water sector to clean up its act

The Blue and Green Drop programmes are being relaunched to rebuild SA’s often poorly maintained and ‘looted’ water systems

Afforestation can hinder fight against global warming if done wrong,...

A simplistic approach to tree restoration without not properly accounting for the complexities of plant and atmosphere interactions can cause problems

Carbon tax to align to UN treaties

Amendments to offset regulations published on 8 July give clarity on big emitters carrying old carbon credits to a new framework

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…