Solly Malope was born in 1953 in Lady Selbourne, Pretoria. When Malope was 10 years old, his family was forced to relocate from Lady Sebourne to Atteridgeville. His father, himself a creative man, encouraged his young son to produce some drawings. With time, Molope mastered the art which became his life. When Malope was at a junior secondary school (1971), he won an art exhibition ahead of black students in the rest of Pretoria. Malope found himself a market at an early age as his final products were often sold through a curio shop in Pretoria.

Two tragic events shaped his formative years - the death of his sister at 16 due to diabetes and in 1973 his father died after an operation, a huge blow to the young Malope.

Malope trained as a teacher at the Hebron Training Institute where the principal of the school Mr. Hotz became very supportive of Malope’s passion for art. Mr Holtz, a Swiss national, inspired and encouraged Malope and they became very close, spending many Saturdays at his home looking through his art books and at his art works, all of which were originals. Eventually Malope received a bursary to study at the Ndaleni Art School at Richmond in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

While at the Ndaleni Art School, he admired the work of European artists - in particular Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso. But he was very much influenced by the African mask and used its traditional styles and designs as motifs in his work. Malope was one of the many artists exhibiting their work in the backyards of sympathetic diplomats, the Canadian embassy buying many of his work around 1978. However, he still needed to earn a steady income and in 1979, he went to teach at Patogeng Higher Primary School.

Malope, who eventually used various media - pastel, coloured pencils, and charcoal for his portraits and abstract works - presented his first solo exhibition in 1979 at the Volkskas Building in Pretoria. At the time he was the member of the South African Association of Arts. He was also the first black artist to exhibit his work at the Montmarte café in the Burlington Arcade in Pretoria. In 1982 Malope was awarded a scholarship by the Italian embassy to pursue his art studies in Florence.

Malope explains what inspired him in his work, “I am very close to human beings; I like human beings. Politics prompt much of my work‚ it is through my message on paper that I would like to bring people together”. His works include, Mother Earth, 1978 (Pencil on Paper), Shadows of Life, 1978, (Pastel) Man Hiding, 1978 (Pastel), You and Your Shadow, 1979 (Pastel), Creation, 1978, (Pastel), Imagination, 1978 (Pastel), In Your Own Mirror, 1979 (Pastel), A Face not Familiar, 1979 (Pastel), Solitude in the Moon, 1978 (Pastel), Playing Time, 1978 (Pencil).

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