WATCH: Thami Jali epitomises the art of activism

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Feb 14, 2020

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Thami Jali is a multi-talented artist equally at home behind the potter's wheel or working on a new canvas. But it’s the way that this artist has interrogated South African society that informs his vision. With over 30 years working as a professional artist, Jali’s work continues to deal with social and political issues.

I’ve alway been producing work...like one of my artwork I did in 1982, which was well known all over the country around those times. It was titled “The People’s Leaders” and the subtitle was “For the sake of our weaker brothers. We can’t be painting flowers, cats and dogs when we are faced with so many problems in our country,” says Jali.

Jali was also part of a formally constituted group or organisations focusing on mural art which emerged in each of the country's three major cities shortly after 1990. In Durban, Community Mural Projects was formally constituted by Terry-Anne Stevenson and Thami Jali (later joined by Ilse Mikula) in 1991. One of their first murals dealt with AIDS awareness. 

Whilst in Durban he coordinated The BAT Visual Arts Studio which provided a space and facilities for artists who would otherwise not have been able to produce work.

“Art of activism, I think it’s time it makes a comeback because now most of the artists’ work speak about their identities, which is something personal, so that is a bit selfish. If we the artists, we are the voice of the masses, then we should be talking to what is happening to our people,” he said. 

Artist Thami Jali standing next to his artwork in his home in Clermont.

His work is represented in the collections of the Durban Art Gallery, Tatham Art Gallery, The Constitutional Court and the University of Zululand as well as in numerous private collections.

* fronThis is part of a series of videos produced for the #Inspire campaign. Brought to you by SAPA+

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