[I] have tried not to be persuaded by my experience of talking to the artist and working on the transcription of our conversation not to read too much on his life’s impact on his work. However as I worked through the text I could not help but notice the symbols at work in his artistic output. These symbols are noticeable in the work Comfort (2020) which is also the title of the solo exhibition on show at BKhz Studio at the moment.
Inanda Dam, The Ocean and the Rondavels
The Inanda Dam which includes the ocean and the Rondavels is symbolised by the turquoise colour. And here it forms the background of the painting. The artist points out that he prefers his subjects not to be surrounded by anything. This, in his opinion, avoids the recording of time, and I would like to add ‘space’. A setting tends to serve this dual purpose. With Comfort the viewer can note that the subject’s sit is also blotted out with the turquoise paint, giving the subject the illusion that they are sitting on air or levitating.
During the Intraparadox interview, it emerged that hair also serve as a symbol of power besides that of beauty in the artist symbolic repertoire. According to Wonder Buhle, the research that he has conducted on hair suggests that there are tiny holes on each of our hair strands; not perceptible to the naked eye, these holes open up at night. When they open they allow the hair to absorb energy from the universe. To a certain extent Buhle also refers to the biblical story of Samson and the power that lay in his mane. Thus the afro signify power, beauty and confidence.
Impepho herb, in African spirituality, is a conduit between our physical realm and the spiritual realm and it is used to establish a connection between the two. It is used when an aspirant would like to ask for a safe passage during their travels or to ask for guidance from the ancestors. I must admit that my own expertise on matters related to indigenous knowledge system falls short. Even for an herb that I have used on a number of occasion. However, I found it remarkably interesting to meet an artist who believed that by painting this herbal plant into the work contributed to the goodwill that he wants to spread with his work to the world. This herb is mixed with Grandmother’s lucky flower during the art production process.
Grandmother’s Lucky Flowers
I am a little bit disappointed in the shortfall that my writing on Wonder Buhle has exhibited, especially with regard to not being able to name the flower that recur in the artist’s work. Let me be clear about one thing though, this is not the artist fault nor mine. It is the issue of time. Grandmother’s lucky flower is mixed with Impepho to chart a safe journey for the artworks wherever they are going in the world. Refer to the outfit and the sandals that the figure is wearing to acknowledge this fusion. It is the artist hope that one day he will be able to identify this flower. When that day come one part of the puzzle of the artist’s work at this point in this artistic output will fall into place an our conception of the artist’s oeuvre, with regard to his iconography, will be rendered clearer.
Growing up in his grandmother house with no electricity but an open fire heath for cooking and candles for illuminating the interior of the house, the young Buhle was encourage to notice the stars above, the moonlight and its resultant silhouettes of the mountains, the Rondavel structures and people moving about in the village. But it was to the stars that the young Buhle looked and wished to know more about. The artist wished to study the stars one day. He has come to see the stars as having a significant connection with humanity following the research that he had conducted on them. Research revealed that humanity, as part of the universe, we are also composed of star dust. The inclusion of the stars in the rendering of the figures reflects this connection. To notice the stars please refer to the figures’ shoulder and knee in the work Comfort (2020), wherein the glistening of the black skin’s contours are expressed. Besides his love for black skin; he wishes he was darker than he is, the black skin symbolises the silhouette spectacle of the people the artist would see moving around at that time as well as the artist’s first media, charcoal.
One day the artist dreamt that he was walking along the shore line of the beach. As he walked, waves kept coming to him and leaving gold. Instinctively he started to pick up this gold. Meanwhile the waves kept sweeping the shoreline and leaving more gold. Laughing at what he would do with the gold He continued to pick up more gold until he couldn’t anymore. He then woke up. He was amazed by the dream. He consulted a diviner to ascertain what the dream could mean. The consultation established that the dream could signify wealth in his lineage which he did not know about or that his great grandmother was reassuring him that he has the right to claim part his wealth in this world. The sandals worn by the figure are in gold, notice the embossing of Grandmother’s Impepho infused flowers on the sandals.
Inanda Dam, The Ocean, The Rondavels, Hair, Impepho, Grandmother’s Lucky Flowers, Stars and Gold are the symbols that are part of the artist’s oeuvre at the moment. I think these symbols are summed up well in this artwork. It is in this work that a union of what has informed the artist’s output in his practice achieve harmony.
NB. The soundtrack playing in the final mix of the audio interview, Nomaphupho, from the album Open Letter to Adoniah (2016), has been used with permission from Sibusile Xaba.
© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong, 2020