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TAXI - 012 (article first published : 2005-08-15)

The 12th Taxi book in the series on contemporary South African artists is about Sandile Zulu, his work and aspiration. Written by Colin Richards, a lecturer in art criticism and art theory at the University of Witwatersrand, it gives insight into the thinking of an artist who has produced breathtaking work over an extensive period of time. Zulu has been recognised locally through many awards. His works feature in major national collections and he has received international acclaim through taking part in exhibitions and workshops overseas.

The Taxi book visits Zulu’s studio – inside and outside - to give the readers an opportunity to get to know the artist. “His art is as much a synthesizing collateral creativity of a decaying urbanism as it is of rural nature. The aesthetic tone is ritualistic and repetitive, mantric and mesmerizing,” says Richards.

Sandile Zulu was born in 1960 in Ixopo. He studied art at Rorke’s Drift Art School, continued at Technikon Natal and completed his studies with a BAFA at Wits. To create his works he uses wood, paper, skin, roots, glass, wire and even urban waste. He’s obsessed by fire, air and water and burns repetitive patterns to create his vision. Fire is a social and spiritual phenomenon for him, cementing human communities across time and space. The artist also links lightning with life, death and rebirth.

His obsession goes deep – he finds fire difficult to control and uses the flame to feel the relationship between himself and the materials. The additional use of barbed wire as a tool is extremely clever as it accentuates feelings of discomfort – of ache.

The artist has an infinitely fertile mind and the pieces he creates are nothing short of ingenious. He draws on ubuntu insights. From an early age he practiced drawing (rather than reading or writing) because he says “I enjoy it and it helps me to do other work better.” The works give voice and understanding to the artist’s obsession. They are very beautiful in execution and very meaningful in context and content.

This Taxi book is written by an academic for other academics interested in art, it has been extremely well researched and is full of background facts that are important to be able to understand and come to terms with the work of Sandile Zulu. The language Richards uses is clear and precise, but for me – as a reader – it lacks emotion. There are too many notes. It lacks the very fire with which Sandile Zulu, the artist, is so obsessed.

Schools will greatly benefit from the Sandile Zulu Educational Supplement written by Phillippa Hobbs.

Taxi – 012 ISBN 0-958-4688-7-7 is published by David Krut Publishing with sponsorship from NAC, the Netherlands and French Embassies, The French Institute of South Africa and David Krut Arts Resource. It retails at R150. More information about the series of Taxi books on ww.taxiartbooks.com – Marianne Meijer




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