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NHLANHLA ARTHUR XABA (article first published : 2003-05-14)

The Durban Art Gallery’s DagMag carried thefollowing obituary for Nhlanhla Xaba.

Nhlanhla “Nhleiks” Arthur Xaba, one of the prolific South African artists and a dedicated cultural worker, passed away on early hours of Sunday morning, the 9th of March 2003. He died in the blaze that also took away the home of many young Gauteng Artists studying printmaking, at the Artist Proof Studio in Newtown. The fire gutted the Artist Proof into a grey rubble of steel and ash. On Monday a group of Artists gathered in front of this home which has now been reduced to a rubble, to pay tribute to their mentor, their friend, inspiration, brother and a cultural worker.

His images are, in his own words “… [an] attempt to convey a painter¹s struggle. I am concerned with shifting boundaries mental and physical. On the canvas and in life, these boundaries, are continuously shifting and are complex, centred around the economics and politics of place and time, also geography and physical space. These boundaries are also the urban and the rural, the contemporary and traditional². He worked expressively, with a great mastery of technique, in painting and printmaking. His iconography is characterised by the human figure, African traditional objects such as masks. His paintings are colourful, with rich layers of colour and elaborate brush-strokes. At the time of his death, he was working on creating a body of work towards an exhibition in June 2003.

Nhlanhla Xaba was born in 1960 in Pennyville, at the East Rand town of Springs. He was taught art by Madi Phala, an artist himself. Based in the East Rand between 1976 and 1979, he matriculated at Tlakula High School in Kwa-Thema and attended formal art education training at Funda Centre, studying Fine Art with UNISA through the African Institute of Art. It was between 1987 and 1989 that Xaba studied Child Art Education, and here together with his fellow art teachers that they compiled and published the Khula-Udweba (Children¹s Art Teaching) Handbook.

As an art teachers and a cultural worker he has worked tirelessly, on Khula Udweba project, participated in numerous workshops. His unselfish dedication to developing others among others, when he worked as part-time teacher at Alexander Art Centre, Othandweni Orphanage and the Open School in Pimville.

He worked, together with his late teacher and mentor, to establish the Soweto Neighbourhood museum, also taught at FUBA Academy, Funda Centre and IVACA (Independent Visual Art & Craft Academy) now VACA in Germiston. He co-established the Artists Proof Studios in 1991, with Kim Berman.

He has exhibited widely, and in 1978 as part of the Bayajabula Group, he had his first group show in Kwa-Thema Hall. Internationally, he has exhibited and ran workshops in Paris, Switzerland, New York, Belgium and Ireland. He was awarded the 1998 Standard Bank Young Artist winner for Visual Arts. He is represented in public and private collections both locally and internationally.




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