Michael Selekane

“… Kids are now getting down with gun crowds war zones, no homes, ain’t it time to get the dug up bones? Brothers and sisters put yourself in the picture, this time you know a revolution is the only way we can change.” -Jason Kay

Michael Tshepho Selekane’s artistic practice has always been rooted in social commentary, somehow managing to bypass the expected subject matter of drawing cartoon characters as a youth in favour of depictions of friends, family members and classmates. His documentation of the world around him has become a lifelong engagement; with Selekane constantly looking to improve upon earlier renderings of places and spaces.

Selekane’s acrylic and oil paintings of selected locations have a familiarity to them and suggest that these are not merely spaces which this artist has stumbled upon, but rather are locations he has intimate knowledge of. Whether these readings of his scenes are encouraged through engaging with a medium which speaks of a time period divorced from our current digital age of crisp, sometimes sterile, documentations. Selekane’s works buck any trends of contemporary norms of daily life artistic depictions as he opts instead, for a layered grittier and rawer aesthetic which speaks more succinctly to daily lived experiences. The often texturized and misty portrayal of his scenes may find Selekane easy bracketed into the same mould of artists such as Sekoto and Pemba, but this Michael Selekane embraces, admitting that this is in many way purposeful as he questions how, if at all, members of the communities he represents actually feel the changes of post and pre Apartheid. Selekane’s scenes are political spaces fueled by the whispered angst of a marginalized population. Clues to Selekane’s political undertones exist in what he chooses to depict and how that subject is presented to us - a cramped shack interior is emphasized through the use of his composition and framing devises, whilst an unassuming township street scene is draped with a light misty blanket, even his rural landscapes appear to be suffocated and not allowed space to breathe. If the aforementioned shack interior can be understood to be a commentary on systemic poverty, its polar opposite depiction of the rural setting should in all accounts speak of abundance. However Selekane subverts this expectation once again through his manipulation of his composition. In this instance the promise of tall grasses in the foreground from rolling on endlessly are tamed by presence of a wall of houses which prevent us from seeing anymore of the landscape. This could possibly allude to an ever increasing need to have an equivalent demographical representation ownership of land, or perhaps an interpretation of the psychological effects an urban city life has on those like Michael Selekane, who once lived in vast rural environments. His kasi street scenes with their dusty fog alludes to the time period when fog of tear gas was married to the air during the fall of Bophutotswana where political unrest followed Nelson Mandela’s release.

 Even though there exists a sense of disease in the works depicted by this artist, there remains a sense of normality in these portrayals of daily life that is in all accounts business unusual for the masses of Mzanzi. Michael Tshepho Selekane’s creations are beautifully vibrant reminders of starkly grotesque daily realities. These works are in essence silent screams reminding us to look more keenly at the worlds, spaces and places we find ourselves in.         

1986 -
Nationality: South African
Residence: Johannesburg
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