Thato

Thato Nhlapo: winner of the 2014 Reinhold Cassirer Award

The Reinhold Cassirer Award, supported by Nadine Gordimer and Strauss & Co auction house, is aimed at talented young painters and drawers whose work shows great potential, but who have had limited access to artistic opportunities.

 
The award aims to give the winner an opportunity to professionalise their practise. They are expected to stretch their creative boundaries through the informal mentorship they receive from the artists at the Bag Factory.

Thato
Like most young South Africans Thato had little opportunity to take art as a subject at school. This did not hold back from him developing his technique (and the chagrin of his teachers) by doodling in his school books.
Thato has worked in a variety of mediums, focusing on life in South African townships, and his recent interest has been graffiti. His images provide a contemporary and yet impermanent view on township culture.
 
Thato’s recent work has focused on his hometown, Ratanda, when he discovered how few of the local residents knew the history of the township. Ratanda was created in the 1950’s when many communities were forcefully moved from their homes to other areas as the Apartheid government enforced the “group areas act”. Some of these peoples forcefully removed from their homes were deposited in an old farmland just South of Heidelberg in 1955. These people chose Ratanda as the name for their home which is merging of the SeSotho and Zulu words for love; ‘Rata’ and ‘Thanda’ respectively.
 
In the past years Thato Nhlapo has pieced together a verbal history of Ratanda and using his art he is taking its story to the community. Thato selects run down or abandoned spaces in the township, making very conscious decisions around the image versus its ‘canvas’. Like the impermanence of informal settlements, and the feeling of loss the forced removals created, the impermanence of Thato’s graffitis’ adds poignantly to the history of the township.
 
In his work Thato prefers to focus on the fond memories, capturing the “ghosts” of Ratanda and celebrating their lives, especially those moments of community, family, laughter and fun.
 
Thato presently lives and works from Ratanda, and has completed his first year of his BTech Fine Art at Vaal University. He will be taking up a studio at the Bag Factory for the next two months, taking to learn from and network with the professional artists at the space.
If you would like more information about Thato, please contactinfo@bagfactoryart.org.za
Bag Factory would like to thank the sponsors of this award: Nadine Gordimer and Strauss & Co auction house. Without their support this award would not be possible.
Thato will participate in a joint exhibition at the end of June 2014 with new works created during the residency.
 
Text and image ©2014 Bag Factory Artists’ Studios | 10 Mahlatini Street, Fordsburg, Johannesburg, 2001