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Sunday, July 18, 2010


(Pic by Estelle Sinkins: Shokwakhe Mngadi with his painting of the Moses Mabhida stadium)

Works created by the late Shokwakhe Mngadi are on show at the Jabulisa 2010 exhibition at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg. Tatham education officer, Thulane Makhaye shares his memories of the Pietermaritzburg artist with Estelle Sinkins, Arts Editor of The Witness.

The first time I met Shokwakhe Mngadi was when he submitted his work for the Echo Craft Bazaar in 2007. He tried several times to find access to sell his models and even changed his prices to make a sale. His entry in the 2007 Bazaar was a model for a stadium, which is now part of the Tatham Art Gallery's permanent collection. This early example was later improved as he started to combine photography and imagination, as can be seen in his later models of buildings and stadiums.

After that initial meeting, I was to have many meetings with Sho. Unlike other artists I had met, he was determined to see his art (he never regarded himself as a craftsperson) displayed in Pietermaritzburg’s important buildings. The red-brick structures were his fascination. When I asked why he made models of these old buildings, his response was that he wanted to preserve the City's heritage.

Early in 2008, Sho negotiated his first private sale with the Magistrates' Office for a painting of the court building. Due to administrative blunders, the artwork was never acquired by the court. Similar occurrences were to happen with his other building models and paintings, but that never dampened his spirit as he continued to work to improve his techniques.

After many months of hustling, Sho took the advice to set up residency at Basani Arts and Crafts Centre where he worked with other artists. In the same year Basani started a working relationship with the Tatham Art Gallery through its Artists' Forums and mentorship programmes. At these meetings, Sho never ran out of ideas and was always willing to listen or suggest areas of improvement for himself and other self-taught artists.

One piece of advice he took to heart was to work from life. He started to use photographs and make observation drawings for his designs. For a person who never had previous training in architectural design or technical drawing, it was amazing how accurate he was in depicting the buildings.

As with most South Africans, the 2010 World Cup dream was slowly coming true. For Sho, the soccer festival took on a new meaning. He created his own epic soccer matches between the Zulu and European nations. These were highly detailed, complete with ecstatic fans, good camera work (close ups, overhead and landscape shots of the game) and trophies.

He had his own fantasy matches between the Cetshwayo 11 vs. Portugal or Holland. Most of these matches were highly contested. It was as if he knew that he would miss the World Cup Tournament. In his imagination the games were very intense, as each country wanted to make history by winning the first ever World Cup in Africa.

As an artist, Sho made an impact on everyone close to him. He will be missed as a person. He was full of laughs and was optimistic that tomorrow would be a better day. – Estelle Sinkins