Stompie Selibe on creativity, texture and the unknown
Using the language of both art and music, Stompie Selibe explores texture as it exists in sound, space, colour, rhythm, and life. His process and works are invitations to explore the known and the unknown, asking questions such as ‘who are we?’, ‘who are we to each other?’ and ‘how did we become who we are?’.
ART AFRICA sat down with Selibe to find out more about his work, and his unique take on making art.
Daniel Stompie Selibe. Detail of Only You, 2017, mixed media on fabriano, 1000 x 700mm
ART AFRICA: In your artist statement, you say that your work explores questions like, “how have the fingerprints of history left their mark upon us, just as we have left our fingerprints upon history?”. Can you please explain this in more depth, and why questions like this are important to your practice?
Stompie Selibe: This is a very important perspective and concept for me, that we as people are an interplay of forces, a flowing river if you will, a zig-zag between who we are individually and how the world impacts and shapes us and our environments. The world is as the shoreline – shaping much of our experience, and each of us is like the river, full of our unique energy, feelings, desires, secrets, pains, and actions. We can determine much of what we do, but we are also shaped by the shoreline, we interact with it, the river and the shore line interact as in a dance. Overtime, we shape and re-shape each other by our actions.
This kind of philosophical inquiry underlies my work as an exploration of surfaces, beneath the surface, and the ripples and tensions between the two. I am interested in how the presence and complexity of time and the environment – social, political, cultural and historical – shape us at the same time that as human beings we interact with and shape the world. This dance of power, influence, the unseen and unspoken, the mystery of who we are and the stories we tell fascinates me. This is what I explore in my improvisational practice, I see where things take me and play with all of it.
Daniel Stompie Selibe. Only You, 2017, mixed media on fabriano, 1000 x 700mm
You use both the language of visual art and music to explore the depth of space, rhythm and texture in painting, music and life – especially through the deconstruction and reconstruction of musical sounds and images. In your opinion, how are these three articles – painting, music and life – interwoven?
For me being a musician and artist allows me to play with imagination, improvisation and materiality, and what there is to create with. We are all creating new things out of the old all the time – I use as my creative tools sound, colour and images, and they are my building blocks and what I play with the most. All of life can be seen as a canvas or music, life as in art is what we create with what we have available to us, our imagination, history and our sense of how we want to shape the world, the impact we want to have and our sense of magic.
To me it is very important to be open to new things, perspectives, experiences. So many of the problems we see in the world are rooted in an unwillingness of people, or communities, or people in power to create new things out of the old – to be shaped in new ways. For me the improvisational way of living and creating music and art is the most growthful and hopeful as we seek new and better ways of living together.
Daniel Stompie Selibe. Medley , 2017, mixed media on fabriano, 1000 x 700mm
Influenced by mentors such as Stompie Manana and Dennis Nene, your work fuses elements of both ‘the old’ and ‘the new’. Can you tell us a bit more about how mentors such as these two came to play such a significant role in the creation of your work?
Stompie Manana and Dennis Nene have been mentors to me, they have shown me a way to look at myself and taught me a way to form myself as a young person. They really taught me the role of values in my work and in life, they taught – and embodied – an ethics in practice, the ethics of what one does. Both were concerned with the development of young people, they were friends and spiritual guides, and they taught and showed me the value of harmony, of peaceful change, of doing good. They showed me how important it is to be guided in life by values and ethics, and to seek out and build communities of people who share in these values.
Daniel Stompie Selibe. Detail of Medley , 2017, mixed media on fabriano, 1000 x 700mm
You have also facilitated many workshops on ‘healing through art’. Please tell us a bit more about these workshops and the outcome they have on those who participate. Also, how have these workshops impacted on your personal art-making process, if at all?
The facilitation I have done has shown me over and over again the power of giving people tools to express who they are. To me, much of healing can be understood as the result, if you will, of the process in which people have been given the tools they needed to express and be who they are.
Music and art are great tools for this combined with being in and working as a group where people can experience that they are not alone, they are seen in all their richness and depth and they are an active part of collaborative and collective creation. This is a very powerful experience. Too often we are in environments where all that is wanted from us is to be a particular way or produce a particular thing, we are related-to as products ourselves, not as creative producers of life, ourselves and communities.
Daniel Stompie Selibe. Little Me, 2017, mixed media on fabriano, 1000 x 700mm
Re-initiating that recognition of ourselves as creators and not products – and as having greater power as a member of a collaborative creative whole – is a nurturing, grounding and meaningful experience for people. Many people describe it as an experience of being with their ancestors. I am inspired by this, by group creativity, by being in the presence of our ancestors, by people sharing their truth, by people letting themselves feel the pain and joy of others, by giving solace and comfort to each other, by sharing our humanity and experiencing all that we can be to each other and do with each other.
Daniel Stompie Selibe. Detail of Little Me, 2017, mixed media on fabriano, 1000 x 700mm
Lastly, what can we expect to see from you in the near future?
In ones’ personal life you plan and execute something and get the results at the end, or on the other side. In art, it is a continuous process, it develops continuously. One could say an art work is never done, or that one work just leads to another – the only difference is the seam in the canvas. In music, it is just a breath that connects everything. I am hoping to bring a new style to my art making and am exploring what it would be to create three dimensionally.