CityLife Arts

Themba Khumalo and Jan Tskikuthula’s works are an invitation to viewers to see the land for what it is: vulnerable spaces

By Ivy Rihlampfu

The land subject in South Africa remains very complex, coupled with uncertainty and without clear indication on what the future holds about re-occupying the land. At this instant one can relate to the land from an awareness perspective and some of its the core elements, such as housing humanity.

This article investigates a type of surrealist depiction of the land that overlaps between two artists, looking at the land in its openness and how the usage of certain elements informs us about how we could possibly relate to the land and its vitality to humanity, and look at the land for what it is. Imagery helps us gain entrance for us to understand a type of spiritual relationship, one can have as depicted by the artists to bring awareness, contrast to vulnerability and hope to the very land.

In this article we attempt to illuminate certain aspects to make the land easy for us to investigate. We enter its open spaces through the lenses of two artists Themba Khumalo and Jan Tskikuthula. The deciphering is borrowed from two artists’ works, current and previous artworks, so we can have a glance into seeing land for what it is and open spaces.

Themba Khumalo, Ukukhanya -The Light

Khumalo’s work bursts with landscapes that are complimented with Isolation. There is an ongoing dialogue that stems from the ground up till the skies, subjects such as a group of individuals praying being used to link a spiritual perspective. This can speak to the relationship one has with the land. Themba’s work can embody a political angle at times to address some of the challenges such as land redistribution.

Themba Khumalo, The Holy Land

The elements in his work is lays a foundation to dig deep. The repetition of street poles and connection lines in open lands speaks to the connection; thread between us and the land. For certain artworks human figures are pushed back into the background and it’s as though they are getting swallowed in this vast open grassland, and the land becomes a focal point.

Through his technique etching, dry point and mono print his work becomes intense and allows him to achieve different textures, strong lines and different effects to communicate a different mood his works takes on over and over.

Tshikhuthula’s work is surrealist in its nature. He uses imaginary landscape that the artist brings forth and windmills that are a personification of human figures. This is his attempt to addressing his family tree as he is comes from a family of underground water drillers.

Jan Tshikhuthula, Lwendo Lwa Dhuva 2

Draught is a continuous element that he explores in his work for its an ongoing challenge that is faced by multitudes in his homeland, Venda in Limpopo . It’s as though the land takes

The windmills from Jan’s work take on personified human form at some instances there is tension happening between the objects, and it’s as though there is an ongoing conversation and it’s up to us as the audience to grasp, to pay attention. The clouds seem to carry underlying messages as they are used by the artist to give us clues from clear to gloomy skies. He is verbalizing diverse messages.

Jan Tshikhuthula, Return of Innocence

Jan takes us to a planet where the land stands in a vulnerable position as it not fulfilling its mandate, which is to nourish as it remains unnourished and dry repeatedly. This is the case yet even at this position there’s certain aesthetics that remains unmatched. The is a yearning for water, a thirst that seems not to be quenched.

The two artists bring to light pressing issues cornering the land in a poetic manner by using different elements, moods and subjects to achieve this. For both artists the clouds are vital to the intention the artist is trying to set for us. The open spaces and isolation overlap between the two artists. Open spaces take center stage and it’s an invitation to see the land for what it is.

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