C O L B E R T    M A S H I L E

Click on the links below the thumbnails to view the full image with cataloguing
For more information on the artist, see below

Kosa-Ya-Bosego II (Song of the Night II)


Side Kick (Molata)




Moruti Wa Lesela








Leru Leso (Black Cloud)




Mafuri IV


Kgomo Tse Nne


Artist's statement

Colbert Mashile was born in 1972 in Bushbuckridge in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa. Mashile says, 'I come from a place that is shrouded by powerful cultural norms and customs.' These customs, such as the ritual of circumcision (which both he and his wife have undergone), informed his earliest work, and he sought refuge and healing through art.

Colbert Mashile explores the psychological impact of traditional circumcision and initiation rituals on initiates. He also explores the often-problematic narratives of collective cultural determinants within these communities. As Colbert Mashile has matured, the psychological underpinnings are still evident, but his imagery has transgressed these limitations to begin addressing issues such as home, language and the natural landscape.

Mashile comes from a family of teachers and was expected to join the family trend on completion of high school. While studying in Pretoria he became curious about the art that he saw in gallery windows on the streets of Pretoria. This led him to the Johannesburg Art Foundation and then to a degree in Fine Arts from the university of the Witwatersrand.

Colbert Mashile has risen to prominence on both national and international levels, focusing on initiation rituals and the traditions around circumcision. His recent work builds upon these themes but is infused with the natural and mystical elements that have become part of his environment since moving back to rural Mpumalanga. In nearly every work, what emerges is a subtle tension between an invasive nature and a sense of serenity. It is this dichotomy that is so engaging.

This artist has an uncanny ability to "tune into" universal psychological archetypes in his work. These images are completely based in his African identity and yet they link up with the universal. His horned figures that loom over men, coffin-like vehicles and vast landscapes fill his prints. Mashile's fine sense of colour compliments his forms, which seem to celebrate a connection to the earth.

Mystical figures, phallic images, pods, huts and organic shapes are but some of the visual stimuli, which abound in Mashile's recent work. The commentary on the relation of humans to the environment is unquestionable. Minuscule figures stand unobtrusively atop high structures surrounded by open fields. Some of the paintings depict a clear concern with masculinity. Horns dominate the structures, conveying male aggression.

Unable to handle the stress of Johannesburg, Mashile has found refuge for himself and his wife and daughters in the quiet of Mpumalanga where he can 'feel and experience my Africanness, let emotions come through and discover the truth about myself.'

Mashile, a quiet individual, reflects on his use of symbols and icons. He comments that it simply shows the 'truth about the land and its people and thus my existence in South Africa'. This poignant statement reflects someone who has a clear understanding of the prevalent issues in South Africa. Mashile has found an individual way in which to artistically communicate his own concerns and those of society as a whole, and he does so in a remarkable manner. His work references various elements of more traditional art-production techniques (printmaking and painting). But, within this production, he isolates the personal narrative as the loudest voice within a cacophony of layers of meaning and reference.


Education and Training

University of the Witwatersrand
     Certificate: Internship Course (June, 2002)
     Master of Arts in Heritage Studies (2001-)
     Tourism and Developmental Studies
     Environmental Studies
     Public Culture Studies
     Research Report (pending)

University of the Witwatersrand
     Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts (1996-2000)
     Special Awards:
     Certificate of Merit: Outstanding Results in Drawing & Design III (1998)
     Certificate of First Class: Painting IV (1999)

Johannesburg Art Foundation
     Certificate in Art Foundation Course (1992-1994)

Tladishi High School


     JHB Art Foundation-1994
     Martienssen, University of the Witwatersrand-1998 & 1999
     ABSA Gallery, Johannesburg-2000
     UNISA Art Gallery-2000
     Malangatana in South Africa, Sandton Civic Gallery-2000
     Bill Ainslie Art Gallery-2000
     Klein Karoo National Arts Festival-2000
     Museum Africa Gallery-2001
     The Art Space Gallery-2001
     Art On Paper Gallery-2002 (April & August)
     Klein Karoo National Arts Festival-2002
     Gallery On The Square, "Nga Ya Fsa" : Sandton-2002 (Group Show)
     Axis Gallery, New York, "Circumcised/Circumscribed" - January 2003 (Group Show)
     Art Space, Johannesburg - January 2003 (Group Show)
     Johannesburg Art Gallery, "Show Me Home" : 5 April - 25 May 2003 (Group Show)
     Gallery On The Square, Sandton, "A New Collection" : 28 June - 12 July 2003 (Group Show)
     NSA Gallery, Durban : "Tsa Ka Mafuri": 19 August - 7 September 2003 (Solo Show)
     ABSA L' Atelier Competition Exhibition 2004
     Brett Kebble Awards Exhibition 2004
     Boston, Smithsonian, Gibbs Museum, Detroit - United States (Traveling Show):
     "A Decade of Democracy: Witnessing South Africa": 2004 - 2005 (Group Show)
     "The ID of South African Artists" - Amsterdam, Holland: 2004 - 2005 (Group Show)
     South African National Gallery, Cape Town, "A Decade of Democracy: South African Art 1994 - 2004
     from the Permanent Collection - 2004 (Group Show)
     Gallery On The Square, Sandton, "Tsa Bagale": 6 - 31 October 2004 (Solo Show)
     Johannesburg Art Gallery, "Making Waves" (A selection of works from the SABC art collection):
     November 2004 - February 2005 (Group Show)
     Johannesburg Art Gallery, "Negotiated Identities, Black Bodies": 24 October 2004 - 2 January 2005 (Group Show)
     Brett Kebble Awards Exhibition 2005
     ABSA L' Atelier Competition Exhibition 2005
     Sasol New Signatures Competition Exhibition 2005
     Migrations Culturelles, Bordeaux , France: "Les arts de la Coexistence?": September 2005 (Group Show)
     Médiathèque, Biarritz, France: "Les arts de la Coexistence?": November 2005 (Group Show)
     Florence Biennale, Florence, Italy: 3 - 11 December 2005
     Alliance Francaise, Paris, France: "Les arts de la Coexistence?": January 2006 (Group Show)
     Musee des Arts Derniers, Paris, France: "Les arts de la Coexistence?": February 2006 (Group Show)
     KZNSA Gallery, Durban: "New Painting": 30 March - 23 April 2006 (Group Show)
     Unisa Art Gallery, Pretoria: "New Painting": 9 May - 2 June 2006 (Group Show)
     DAK' ART, Senegal: 1 - 10 May 2006
     Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg: "New Painting": 23 July - 3 September 2006 (Group Show)
     AVA, Cape Town: "Mmawaka-Montedi": 16 October - 10 November 2006 (Solo Show)


     University of the Witwatersrand
     SASOL Limited
     NEDCOR Bank
     MTN Corporation
     BHP Billiton (Gencor)
     South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)
     Johannesburg Art Gallery
     E. Oppenheimer & Sons
     The Mandela Foundation
     De Beers
     The South African National Gallery
     Durban Art Gallery
     African Life
     Daniel Erasmus Attorneys

Selected Publications

     Virginia Mackenny, 'Painting ourselves out of a corner' in Storm Janse Van Rensburg (ed), New Painting:
      A group exhibition of recent South African art (Kwazulu Natal Society of Arts: Durban)

     Sean O' Toole, 'Animist Voice' in Art South Africa, Vol 4, No. 2, Summer

     Gary van Wyk (ed), A Decade of Democracy: Witnessing South Africa, catalogue
     (Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston)
     Moleleki Frank Ledimo in Sophie Perryer (ed), 10 Years 100 Artists: Art in a Democratic South Africa
     (Bell-Roberts Publishing & Struik Publishers, Cape Town)
     Moleleki Frank Ledimo, 'Rites of Passage: Refiguring initiation' in Emma Bedford (ed), A Decade of Democracy:
     Contemporary South African Art 1994 - 2004 from the permanent Collection of Iziko: South African National Gallery
     (Double Storey, Cape Town)

     Tumelo Mosaka, 'Circumcised/Circumscribed' in Art South Africa, Vol 1, No. 3, Autumn

Artist Residencies

     Cavershim Press, KZN, South Africa, 2004
     McColl Center for Visual Arts: Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A. January - March 2005
     Cavershim Press, KZN, South Africa. September - October

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