Art out of real life kasie experience

BEFORE he could even learn how to spell his name, Linda Shongwe was drawing pictures and cartoons with a pencil. And when other children his age showed off toys that were bought for them, he was making his own toys using clay.

BEFORE he could even learn how to spell his name, Linda Shongwe was drawing pictures and cartoons with a pencil. And when other children his age showed off toys that were bought for them, he was making his own toys using clay.

Now 30 years old, Shongwe says that he knew since he was a child that he would end up as a visual artist and not an office worker his parents had hoped he'd be.

Today Shongwe is an oil and acrylic painter. He has recently started working with linocuts, which is a print-making technique.

"Some of my pieces are inspired by the relationship I believe people need to have with earth, wind and fire.

"Over the years, I have learnt to perfect my own technique and have realised that liking someone else's style should not influence me in any way," Shongwe says.

Commenting on a mystic painting of two pyramids and the moon and stars, Shongwe says: "In this painting, I have explored a Japanese technique which I admire and am teaching myself."

The artist admits that there was a time when he strayed from his own identity after observing the beauty of his mentor David Kholoane's work. But he has now found his footing again.

"Most of my works are influenced by life in the townships and villages.

"My paintings are an interpretation of the world around me as I see it and understand it."

Speaking about his other love: music, Shongwe says he intends pursuing it seriously this year.

"I intend working a lot harder this year on my music and also learning to play other traditional instruments," Shongwe says.

The biggest price Shongwe's art has fetched to date is R28000.

He has exhibited at the Seippel Gallery in Cape Town and the Van Riebeeck Gallery in Nelspruit in Mpumalanga.

Shongwe says he has just finished working on 30 art pieces for which he needs funding to exhibit solo.

He says the government and the private sector seem to have little appreciation of art by black artists.

"There are many great artists in Mpumalanga, but unfortunately they have no support. When you think of Reuben Mpangane's work, you wonder why is it not adorning government buildings?" he says.

He bemoans the fact that there is only one functional gallery in Mpumalanga.

Shongwe lives with his grandmother in Ngodini, near White River, where he has his studio.

His parents died when he was only 17 years old and as the eldest child of three siblings, he had to grow up very quickly to help his grandmother to take care of the younger ones.

Shongwe says that it was during this time that he met artist Karen Diamond. She was a true inspiration and became his mentor, he says.

He did not have the opportunity to study art received his training and residences at Artist Proof and Greatsman studios in Newtown, Johannesburg.

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