Acclaimed Cape Town visual artist and DJ Leon Botha has died a day after his 26th birthday.
Botha, who was one of the world’s oldest survivors of progeria, diagnosed when he was four, lost the battle on Sunday against the rare genetic condition that aged him prematurely.
He featured in the Enter the Ninja video by zef-hip hop group Die Antwoord and was also involved in deejaying and turntablism under the name DJ $olarize.
MC and social activist Emile Jansen said Botha touched everyone involved in art and hip hop. “He had extremely intelligent views. We learned a lot from his perspective. But we knew at some stage we’d have to face him not being with us any longer. His death is a loss to young people. But the work of any artist, including Leon’s, will continue to live on.”
Despite no formal training as an artist after high school, Botha became a full-time painter, doing commissioned work. His first solo exhibition was in 2007.
Last year, Botha collaborated with Gordon Clark in an exhibition Who Am I?...Transgressions at the Joao Ferreira Gallery in Cape Town. The work explored his condition.
In 2005, Botha underwent heart bypass surgery to prevent a heart attack due to progeria-related atherosclerosis – a condition in which an artery wall thickens as a result of the accumulation of fatty materials such as cholesterol.
Jansen said Botha had been ill for quite some time. “He was fighting a huge battle. In the last while, he was struggling to put words together. I could see it was a struggle. Imagine what it must be like for an ar$tist to not be creative.”
Botha was born in Cape Town, where he lived until his death. – Independent Cadet News Agency