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Renowned Cape Flats artist defied the odds, and is grateful of how lucky he is

Dion Cupido has a passion for art. Picture: Twitter/@dioncupido

Dion Cupido has a passion for art. Picture: Twitter/@dioncupido

Published Mar 25, 2022


Cape Town – Cupido, like many disadvantaged people of colour reeling with the economic legacy of the former apartheid era are often forced into unfulfilling work where their true passions are subdued in order to find an income to survive.

This notion of denying our passions to pursue income in order to survive is reminiscent of the 1800s critic of modern capitalistic life as we know it, Karl Marx. He believed a world centred on profit results in the majority of workers being alienated from their “species-being” – your unique talent.

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Cupido’s life illustrated this, since he had a passion for art since growing up in one of Cape Town’s poverty stricken and gangster- ridden community of Mitchells Plain, a passion that could not be pursued.

“I was lucky enough to get a job with a computer company when I left school, but all I wanted to do was to paint. On my lunch breaks I used to look through the windows of art galleries and dreamed about painting for a living, but my working class background just closed doors for me,” Cupido said.

Cupido maintained his responsibilities but found it impossible to put out his artistic flame and took every opportunity to develop his talents by participating in community art programmes where he found his medium of canvas and paint at lower prices.

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His creations slowly popped up in unconventional places until it caught the eye of gallerist Charl Bezuidenhout.

“I absolutely loved his willingness to push away from what everyone was doing and create his own style in the classic genre of portraiture. No one else was telling their story with so much raw emotion and it felt true,” Bezuidenhout said.

Cupido’s paintings were first exhibited in 1998, and went on to win the Truworths Arts & Media Access Centre’s (Amac) Academy of the Visual Arts award after joining the Amac.

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The Cape Flats native was eventually nominated in 2013 as the Bright Young Thing by South Africa’s most influential arts magazine ‘ArtSouthAfrica’.

He was attracted to abstract work where he crafted his technique. Cupido believed abstraction triggered his thoughts and memories.

“I realised that our biased memories do more than simply present us with images of our personal history. It also shapes our sense of who and what we are. In doing so, it guides us to forming an opinion about ourselves that may not be very accurate. As a result, it does little more than helping us experience life only as we think we know it,” Cupido said.

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Cupido’s work has appeared in group exhibitions since 2007, and he held solo exhibits in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018 in the Mother City and Joburg.

Between April 7 – 29, and after four years since his last solo exhibition, Cupido’s new solo exhibition ‘Return to Eden’ will be displayed at Worldart gallery in Cape Town.

Despite his undeniable success and perseverance, the artist cannot help reflecting on how privileged he is to be in this position.

“I was lucky enough to find a way to pursue my passion and got rewarded for it, but I know many people who had been just as dedicated and were never rewarded. Instead they had to deal with being stereotyped and other prejudices,” Cupido said.


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Art ExhibitionsArtists