|Fikile Magadlela was born in 1952 in Newclare, Johannesburg. Magadlela has been associated with art from an early age. In fact, he immersed himself with knowledge by reading his father’s art related books. Magadlela left school in 1967 to work as a full time artist. Magadlela did not receive formal education in art. Instead his fellow black artists advised him where they could.
Magadlela benefited from such people as Ezrom Legae, Solly Maphiri, who introduced Magadlela into visual arts. and Harold Jeppe who became his mentor, introducing him to art circlesin Johannesburg.
At first, Magadlela’s focus was on large drawings. Some of these were done in pencil. Others were a combination of different techniques such as airbrush combined with pencil and mixed media. Like many black artists of his time Magadlela’s work is based on his black life experience. Magadlela would work for months on a single piece in order to produce magnificent work, paying close attention to the smallest details. Magadlela’s large drawings are often accompanied by his own poetry exploring the dynamics of life.
Magadlela’s work - both poetry and paintings, surrealistic in nature, - were a true reflection of the cultural aspect of the 1970s and 1980s. Magadlela was an adherent of the Black Consciousness ideology and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Steve Biko and others. The Black Consciousness Movement empowered black people to express their ideas and views in different ways, including through the arts.
During the 1970s, Magadlela lived in Pretoria and greatly inspired the artists of the area such as Johnny Ribeiro, Isaac Nkoana, Harry Moyaga and others.
As a result of his involvement in cultural activities, Magadlela was arrested by the apartheid police for his views and perceptions. He was also refused permission to leave the country and study abroad, thus, like so many before him, dashing his aspirations to succeed in his chosen field.
In 1992 Magadlela’s first exhibition since 1979 took place at the Berman Art Gallery in Johannesburg. Speculation as to why he was so inactive for this long period include police harassment, and his possible protest against abuse from galleries who took advantage of the artists like himself. Whatever the reasons, on his return to the art scene he produced remarkable work. Magadlela work reflected both his sense of hope and the future of the country.
While he held on to his hopes for the new democratic government, he began to think artists were being neglected. Indeed many of his ‘friends’ were now in influential positions but, he felt, ignoring him and fellow artists.
Magadlela reflected on the situation, “After the release of Nelson Mandela and the return of exiles there was a reason to have hope and faith. But what has happened since is that artists are being sidelined. There is no consideration for the interest of the artist. There is not even a single trust for artists. What hurts most is that many artists in this country will continue to die paupers.”
Magadlela’s work is represented in many private and public collections inside and outside the country; his work can be found in the South African National Gallery in Cape Town and at Fort Hare. Magadlela’s works include, Celebration, Waiting for a New Dawn, Waiting for the Rain Queen, Moon Dance, Waiting for Asazi, Pessimistic, and Meditative of the Future, Nongqause, and Journey through Cosmos.
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