Khaya (Khayalethu) Witbooi was born in 1977 in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, where he grew up. After matriculating in 1995, he studied draughtsmanship and worked as an illustrator for an architectural firm. During this time, he also freelanced for the Argus newspaper in Cape Town, making court sketches and cartoons, while also painting portraits for various clients. In 2010 he was selected to join the Good Hope Artist’s Studio programme, where he began painting full-time. Today Witbooi, who lists Picasso and South African artist Asha Zero as influences, is renowned for his ‘Afro-pop’ collage-style paintings, which consist of various juxtapositions. A top 40 finalist in the SPI National Portrait Awards, Witbooi’s paintings are strongly influenced by street art and urban underground culture and he describes his work as ‘urban art’. He uses a combination of stencilling and oil painting to express his observations and concerns. The result is edgy and urban, with an African relevance. His work often deals with issues related to post-colonial and post-apartheid South Africa, human behaviour in this context, and the impact and effects of globalisation. Witbooi has been a resident artist at Greatmore Studios in Woodstock, Cape Town, for a number of years. He shows his work at Worldart Gallery, also in Cape Town.

Artist’s statement

“I’m living here, in Cape Town, and that is the space in which I work. When you are in an urban space, you see graffiti, tagging. With my work I don’t want to say that I am a black person but that I am human – a man. I want to speak as I am. I have issues that I cannot express verbally. When I try to speak about those issues, it does not amount to the fullness of who I am, so I make art. I use popular iconography, and I want my work to have relevance. My art is not only saying what is relevant to me but also what is affecting us as a nation and as humans… I’ve taken it upon myself to make a statement of a concerned citizen. I’m not expecting people from around the world to do it before I do. If there’s any person to make the first comment, it is the person who feels it immediately, and I’m that person… South African art is not devoid of the international, so I use images from all over. You can call my work pop art but it is also township art, although not the township art of shanties. We are not in 1980 or 1990. Township art has grown beyond its initial boundaries. You can be anywhere and tell stories about the township. It’s always about what stories you chose to tell.”

Solo exhibitions

2013   

  • Worldart Gallery, Cape Town, New dog, old tricks

2014   

  • Worldart Gallery, Cape Town, My people, Let Pharaoh Go

Group exhibitions

2012

  • Association for Visual Arts (AVA), Cape Town, Our fathers, curated by Kirsty Cockerill and Chantal Louw

2013

  • Bremerhaven, Germany, Young Visions in Motion, curated by Kent Lingeveldt
  • Johannesburg Art Fair, In the Shadow of the Rainbow, curated by Johans Bormann

2014

  • Barnard Gallery, Newlands, Cape Town, Paint Matters, curated by Alastair Whitton
  • Brundyn+, Cape Town, Plakkers, curated by Justin Davy

Awards

2013

  • SPI National Portrait Award, Top 40 finalist

Contact details

+27 076 836 9671

khaywit@gmail.com

Gallery

The CHR in the time of a global pandemic

In line with protocols introduced by government towards the prevention and containment of the COVID-19 virus, the CHR suspended its public events, seminars, and general fellowship program until further notice.  We wish CHR fellows, students, artists, colleagues and friends, as well as our partners and funders in South Africa and across the world much strength and compassion in these difficult times.

 

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