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DEATH OF NHLANHLA XABA (article first published : 2003-03-16)

On the eve of last week’s good news that the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown has acquired two new sponsors with the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the SABC (see separate article), came the horrific report that the 1998 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Visual Arts was burnt to death in a fire in Newtown.

Nhlanhla Xaba was at the time in the Artists Proof Studios in Newtown, central Johannesburg, where he had been working since 1991 as a teacher. It is thought that the studio caught fire in the early hours of the morning. Xaba first worked with the Bayajabula Cultural Group before joining the African Institute of Art at the Funda Centre in Soweto where he trained as an art teacher and taught children and adults.

“Education and social upliftment have long been vital to Xaba,” said the 1998 NAF programme notes. “Teaching is his “duty” and a means of redressing the imbalances in communities as he strives to heal the wounds inflicted by Apartheid, replacing the pain with a sense of self-worth.”

At the time of his dath, Xaba was working on an exhibition due to open in June. All his works for this exhibition – as well as all theother artwork in the studio - was destroyed in the fire.




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