Hailing from Botha’s Hill, KwaZulu-Natal, Sthenjwa Luthuli navigates personal politics through his artwork. The 27-year-old has participated in various exhibitions in Bremen, Germany, group exhibitions in KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg and has completed a mural project in the Concordia Tunnel, which forms part of the Leiterin der Städtischen Galerie international collection.
“I use my work as a voice, including patterns and figures questioning our diverse ways of living in a South African contemporary society in many different ways,” says Luthuli.
At this year’s Sasol New Signature Awards, Luthuli – an independent artist without a gallery representative – become the runner-up for his woodcut work titled Umbango, which means “conflict” in isiZulu. Luthuli explains: “We are challenged to adapt and survive in a society that is constantly changing. This work, in particular, reflects the cultural politics with regards to the traditional Zulu rituals and customs within the contemporary family setting.”
Luthuli found solace in art from a young age. “In my early years back at school, I couldn’t read and write and this made it challenging for me to interact with people.” Today, his work speaks volumes both on the continent and abroad.
Luthuli says travelling has greatly influenced his work, as he gets to compare his lived experience in South Africa to that of other countries, and “how far we are as South Africans with development in many different perspectives and views”. While Luthuli believes it is the tribes, the language and colour of this continent that shape its identity, “we still have lots of work to do as South Africans to build our own country”.
“My work can be accessed directly from me and from media platforms and Internet sites. One of my pieces is featured in the Sasol New Signatures exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum.”