Motshili Nthodi

Motshile wa Nthodi was born in Lady Selbourne in Pretoria on March 27, 1948, the eldest child in a family of 10. His passion for art developed early as he watched his grand mother carving and decorating pots. At 16, Wa Nthodi he decided he wanted to be an artist, but, as with many aspiring artists had to work while devoting his spare time to visiting museums and galleries.

Wa Nthodi soon met other artists who advised him on his work; including, for 15 years, the director of Schweickerdt Arts Gallery in Pretoria, Richard Friemelt. Wa Nthodi took lessons on art at the Ecole Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts in Paris and completed the equivalent of his master’s degree in arts at the Ecole Des Arts Visuele in Geneva.

Wa Nthodi is an expert on woodcuts with his work reflecting traditional and rural life. His most illustrious work to date is From the Calabash, a series of 20 woodcuts, showing a life cycle in a Ndebele village. To Wa Nthodi colour is an important element and runs through some of his work with black symbolizing life, red the ancestors and yellow representing the cosmic elements of the sun, moon and stars, and with the calabashes representing nourishment. Passionate about African art, he does not reject European art but has a desire to make people to recognize local African Art and to keep it alive.

Wa Nthodi’s inspiration for From the Calabash came from a visit to England. Impressed by the way in which culture occupied a central role, he recalls that, “After visiting colleges, museums and other educational institutions during my exhibition tour in England, I was struck by the way in which these people spoke highly and respectably about their cultures: their roots. So I decided to do something about my culture - hence the woodcuts and poetry that accompany them in this volume.”

Wa Nthodi’s work, including From The Calabash, has been exhibited across the world. Not only an artist but a writer as well, he has written a book on his iconic work and includes his poetry. He still lives in Mamelodi and continues to work as an artist.
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