Lloyd Maluleke

As soon as you’re born, they make you feel small

By giving you no time instead of it all

‘Til the pain is so big you feel nothing at all

A working class hero is something to be…” – John Lennon

Lloyd Maluleke  is the founder of Perspective Art Studios; an independent print studio space which is instrumental to the needs and developments of printers and artists in and around the Jo’burg inner city. However, it is the work of this Limpopo-born, Johannesburg-based professional printer and artist’s personal practice which finds him contending with the topic of absent parentage from an unexpected perspective which truly entices. This is because Maluleke’s practice is one which interrogates the topic from a surprisingly unexpected, whimsical and positive stand-point, as the cast of characters who populate his prints do so, not from a stance of victimhood, but rather does so from an angle which is vastly lighter in its tone.

Vital to understanding the perspective which this artist draws from, one needs to unpack his upbringing. Being one of many South African children to grow up with limited access to a father, due to the call of the big city and a need to provide. Maluleke believes that his non-bitter understanding of the situation is based entirely on how his mother explained this situation to him as a child. It’s an understanding which allowed him to see the importance of the community one finds themselves in as everyone plays a role in shaping who you might one day become. This idea is conveyed to us through images of a child often wearing a brightly coloured hardhat or carrying a shovel. These depictions should not be misinterpreted to mean that these children are child labourers, but rather be viewed from the viewpoint of a child who has heard tales of his father who has gone off to the big city to make a better life for his family. In this light these works are meant to be read from the whimsical perspective of a child who hero-worships the idea of what his father represents. This is why Maluleke’s presentation of children presents such a visual contrast between the vividly saturated yellows of the hardhats and the near monochromatic approach used on the figure and background. Maluleke does this to indicate the larger than life idea which a child could hold of an absent parent, This idealized perspective is one bound by the imagination of the child. This simultaneously becomes an indication of the importance a mother or guardian has in moulding the understandings of a child’s understanding of these scenarios. Contextualised in a negative light and the child becomes a petrel dish for hatred and despair to grow. However, fed with positivity and a much more favourable outcome can be nurtured.

In juxtaposition to the whimsical approach used in his depictions of children, Lloyd Maluleke use these same elements of hardhats and hovels to shift the perspective to one seeped more in reality when depicting the women he prints. In this regard these women are representations of the women who are left at home and whom are then left to carry the daily burdens of providing and sustaining their families. Where these elements of the hardhat and shovel once represented an idealised perspective of strength, they now take on a much more literal sentimentality of that strength. Only in these instances it is a seemingly masculine idea of strength bestowed onto the women. Perhaps this is a commentary on the masculine and feminine roles a mother needs to embody in these cases and hence are portrayals of an all new presentation of strength.

Lloyd Maluleke’s surprising presentation of the realities we are all so accustomed to become freshly experienced as he takes working class realities and presents them from unexpected angles – proving that a working-class hero may still be something to be.

1986 -
Nationality: South African
Residence: Johannesburg
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