For University of Zululand’s Arts Lecturer, Mandla Mlotshwa, art is all about communicating a deeper message. And this is evident in his latest graffiti-inspired artworks being exhibited at the Durban Arts Gallery from Tuesday, 17 February until the end of May.
Describing the 20 artworks on exhibition, Mlotshwa says these were inspired by graffiti art which is defined by “human urgencies and anxieties”. He believes that through the artworks he is also able to capture the contradictions that are present in everyday life.
While not everyone might understand his “deep” art, Mlotshwa is not fazed saying people do catch up. He says he will never dumb down his art work for commercial success or to achieve mass appeal. “I want them to discover my art”.
The soft-spoken but opinionated Mlotshwa who has spent most of his adult life teaching art at various institutions, believes that great artists are those who spend their time studying and learning new things. This is perhaps why he has exhibited very little in his career as artists which spans over two decades. “I have been developing other aspects of my life that is why this exhibiting part of my career had taken the backseat,” he explains.
Since graduating from the then University of Natal in the early 90s, Mlotshwa has gone on to teach at the erstwhile Ezakheni College of Education and later left due to political unrest. He then took up a position as HOD at the renowned FUBA arts centre where he worked with the likes of Sam Nhlengethwa, K Hassan and Sipho Siphamla. He then moved to the Eastern Cape where he joined the Transkei College. It was during his time here that he developed his passion for writing becoming a member of a writers’ guild Simanywa Lusiba.
“This changed my life forever, there I met great friends and it changed my life forever, it was really a life-changing experience,” he says.
He has gone on to publish a booklet tracing the history of Zionist grouping Izikhova Ezimqindi and currently has a few writing projects in the pipeline. Mlotshwa was also awarded Ford Fellowship and went on to study for his Masters Degree at the Illinois State University.
After coming back from the US he went on to teach Arts at Newcastle High before joining the University of Zululand. He is however critical of the way arts is being taught at school saying he does not believe there is a will to elevate arts education to the standard it deserves.
Mlotshwa was born and raised in Newcastle by his domestic mother and grandfather. He is married to Makhosi Mthethwa with whom he has a son, Mandla Jnr. They also have two other children, Hlengiwe and Jabulile.
Pictured: Mandla Mlotshwa, artist and lecturer at UNIZULU