Art students looked up to Nkosi as their role model

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

KwaZulu-Natal artist Gabisile Nkosi earned great respect in her short life because she worked very hard to build her career.

Born in Umlazi in 1976, her mother died in 1996.

And with no one to support her through university, she worked at a construction site in Durban until she met Jan Jordan, a lecturer in fine arts at the Durban University of Technology.

Jordan introduced her to the faculty of arts, and those who studied with her say she was a great student, and a role model.

She graduated with a BTech degree in fine arts in 2002 and was employed at the Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. She facilitated print-making workshops with artists and local communities.

Nkosi was involved with Art for Humanity (AFH) for almost 10 years. Her artwork was displayed on a billboard at the Umlazi commercial centre, and was criticised for this by people in the area for participating in the campaign.

"At the time there was a lot of stigma on HIV and Aids. Most people at that time in 2001 did not want to get involved. But she was greatly admired by fellow students and most looked up to her as their role model," said Jordan.

Nkosi emphasised the important role art plays in advocating social issues. "If you want to get a message across, it's better to do a colourful visual rather than text.

"As an artist, I feel privileged to play a role in HIV-Aids awareness through the medium of visual art," she once said.

When her career took off, she took part in several group and solo exhibitions in South Africa and abroad.

She was particularly interested in the therapeutic effects of art and collaborated with Cape Town-based poet Mavis Smallberg on AFH's Women for Children print portfolio.

She strongly advocated women's rights in her linocut, Sisterhood.

Nkosi and her former boyfriend were found dead at her home in Lidgetton in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.