Lethality by Bongani Khanyile.

THROUGH a new mentorship programme, the Durban Art Gallery is driving an initiative to identify and support emerging visual artists.

Running until May 11, the programme aims to identify young artists and invite them to exhibit their work. Thulani Makhaye, the curator of exhibitions for eThekwini Municipality, is the curator of the exhibition titled Observations and Aspirations. The artists elected are Bongani Khanyile and Mhlonishwa Chiliza who are both Durban University of Technology fine arts graduates and Emma Smith Scholarship Award finalists.

Through the programme, Makhaye will involve the two in the curatorial process and help them to devise an educational component to the exhibition which they will manage, and coach them so they can conduct walkabouts of their work.

Tonight chatted to all three about Observations and Aspirations.

“It’s about working-class issues and the artists’ aspirations in the community. It’s about aspiring to become class citizens and to live a better life and a better description of what a better life is. It also ties in with the 20 years of democracy in South Africa this year,” reveals Makhaye Khanyile specialises in ceramics and also draws and paints. Much of his work investigates class divisions in South Africa and on exhibit will be a series of 10 helmets, individually glazed, as free-standing sculptures which symbolise the working class.

He shares: “I applied for the Artists in Residence programme at the BAT Centre. I’m studying towards my B Tech and the concept for my art in the exhibition grew from there. It focuses on issues around power and economic inequalities between the working and non-working class. It looks at the positive and negative results of both classes, how the employer and employee interact. I came from a rural area so I integrated my understanding of rural to urban and seeing the change.”

Chiliza prefers charcoal drawings and stop-frame animation. Among his work on exhibit will be a triptych titled Pillars, in charcoal on paper, which examines the relationship between the working and ruling classes using pillars as symbols of power.

He says: “I was reflecting on my background. After matric, I worked on construction sites and experienced the hardships first-hand. It’s not easy to erase the past. It’s about class and power. I’m trying to explore the relationship between the power and the powerless and investigate the origins of power through exploitation, manual labour and so on. So for me, these were not just general ideas put down on paper… it’s my experiences.”

• The exhibition ends May 11 in the Print Room of the Durban Art Gallery, Durban City Hall building. Free entry. Call 031 311 2264/9.