VISUAL ARTS LEFT THE POORER

PROLIFIC visual artist Dinkies Sithole died at the Lesedi Clinic on Sunday morning after a short illness, ending a chapter in the life of a great visual mind.

PROLIFIC visual artist Dinkies Sithole died at the Lesedi Clinic on Sunday morning after a short illness, ending a chapter in the life of a great visual mind.

Sithole was a frustrated man when he died. In recent months, whenever I met Dinkies, who somehow came over as eccentric, he appeared to be someone who had long given up hope.

But not on the art he loved so much. He would complain that trying to get funding for his art projects from local funders, even those set up by government to do so, like the National Arts Council (NAC), was just as good as trying to squeeze water from a rock.

On several occasions I tried without success to persuade him to apply for funding from the NAC.

"Forget it. Those people are useless. They only fund a tiny group of connected people, operating almost like a cabal of sorts. Forget that it is our money they are using as only their friends get funded," he said recently as he prepared to take an exhibition to Bamako in Mali.

That was the sort of resignation he would give you. In a way Sithole's attitude defines, on a bigger scale, that of several artists who have given up hope of ever getting assistance from a bunch of people who sit as panelists at the NAC and decide the fate of so many artists who apply for grants.

In most cases those who deserve funding, like Dinkies, could not get help.

"In fact, those people must just be closed down. They are useless," he angrily suggested.

Whether his comment, aimed at the NAC, is fair or not is not the point. The point is that Dinkies died a frustrated artist.

Born in Soweto, Dinkies was a painter, sculptor and an acclaimed tap dancer. He studied at the Pelmama Art Centre in Soweto and learned his dance techniques as a member of the Whizzkid Dance Group in Soweto in the late 1980s.

He has practised ballet, break-dancing and tap-dancing. As a dancer and choreographer he has been involved in Arts Alive and the Grahamstown Arts Festival.

Sithole was inspired by ritualistic and spiritual journeys in his work (painting, sculpture and dance), with life and love of nature being inextricably linked.

Since childhood he had been fascinated by the philosophy and painting techniques of the San people ­ using natural pigments on the raw rock face.

After an exchange of ideas with Asian students during his exhibitions in New York and Vermont, Sithole has also been influenced by Sharman and Buddhist philosophies.

He has held a number of exhibitions in South Africa and abroad. In fact, he came back from exhibiting in Madagascar three weeks ago. He was, however, already sick at that time.

Dinkies will be buried today.

The funeral service will be held at house number 6366, Vinyani Street, Orlando East, Soweto, at 7am.

The funeral procession will leave for Avalon Cemetery at 9am.

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