What is the biggest influence on your work? Where I come from, where I’ve been and where I am.
How would you best describe yourself? Human first, inclined to believe strongly in a vision and universal connections to all things relating to that vision. Important to me is balance in all aspects of my life. I like resolution. Keeping time is key to daily successes, something my late father instilled in me.
Favorite icon? The late Senegalese designer Babacar Niang. A man I believe to have been cut from the same cloth as me, albeit born 12 years prior to me but on the same day. He inspired me to connect with and respect the mediums I work in, a way of living by using what avails itself to you. Another is Porky Hefer, for his imagination and visionary skills in sketching.
An important life lesson? Gratitude. Giving thanks in acknowledgement of lessons learnt and applied. I often say ‘camagu!’, which in Xhosa means ‘I see and hear with gratitude’.
You've done numerous residencies including one just outside San Francisco. Tell us briefly about this and the importance of international residency programmes? I undertook a residency at the Palo Alto Art Centre in Palo Alto California, a first for them in accepting an international artist in residence. This was done with the assistance of great friends I’d made through my work many years ago — affectionately known to us as The Bermans, who are based there.
Exploring as a human being is so very important in learning. As an artist my scope is an entire world filled with connections to be made, which gives rise to stories sculpted by experience, and history to be shared. This is why I enjoy residencies.
Through the experiences I had exploring artisans in the area and correspondence with my wife and confidante Nkuthazo (her name means ‘to inspire’ in Xhosa), as well as collaborating with ceramicist Gary Clarien, I started honing in on textures inspired by landscapes and the tensions expressed in layers that give way to the rawness of earth over time. Somewhat like scarification. [For example] erosion seen in the dongas back home or California’s earthquake threats. While there, I hosted a lecture for adults on my processes and a workshop for kids on embossing your environment onto clay as a means of archiving expressions, memories and keep sakes.
You achieved a $20k bid for one of your works at a Christie’s auction in London. What does this mean for you? It means that I have been acknowledged by a wider audience who appreciate my work. The arrival on that particular platform while I’m alive is a feat some artists that I look up to, could only have imagined. Ca magu!
You had a solo show at Friedman Benda in New York last June. Part of the arrangement with the gallery is that they’ve set you up in this wonderful new studio, allowing you to focus exclusively on much bigger pieces. How did this project come about? This was facilitated by Southern Guild, who represent my work on various international platforms. Friedman Benda have been ‘head-hunting’ the African continent for people they consider to be the best representatives of design on the continent.