Ditikeni is again profiling the best and the brightest of South African art this year. Every annual report we publish features artwork that shows the rich talent our country holds and this year we chose the work of Bruce Bowale. This Limpopo-born artist grew up in Pretoria. We sat down with him to ask a few questions about his work and his inspiration.
A: Yes, I am inspired and intrigued about how language, communication and education play a vital role in the growth and self-realization of children.
I strive to influence a culture of reading within the African communities. Reading opens new worlds and lets the reader discover new things, new people, and new places in different ways without ever leaving their home.
The main thread that runs through my creative process is the idea of nostalgia. I am interested in nostalgia as a trigger of childhood memories hence my work would always portray children and elders in the same composition or a body of work.
My work is rooted in ongoing research that focuses on how childhood is situated in today’s societal environment, the changes in our school education system and the linguistic changes that have taken place in how people communicate with one another.
I work primarily in the collage technique to produce my work. My artwork combines painted and drawn figures with texts from old Sepedi novels, poetry, and books of ‘Dika le Diema’ (proverbs and idioms) combined with English text novels, and poetry books.
In the production process of my work, the use of language and text serve as a personal self-reflection for the integration of literature within visual art production and the appreciation of both the text and the visual drawings as forms of communication.
This creates multilingual conceptions and limitless artistic possibilities. Thus, my work reflects visual art practice processes and storytelling.
Q: Can you elaborate on the significance of the work you did for Ditikeni? What was the message you were hoping to convey?
A: “Mr Steward and the Kids” is an artwork depicting three children sitting on the ground in front of an old man which I identify as Mr. Steward. He sits on his kingship chair in a position of majesty and power, as well as passing down his knowledge and experience to the children as they intensely pay attention to him telling his story.
The old man speaks with demonstrations of hand gestures from his left, and in his right hand he holds a red book.
Behind them becomes visible a Wendy house with an old, closed brown wooden door with an open window and an open curtain showing a small plant sitting on top of the windowpane.
This work composes key points of education, learning, growing, nostalgia, and memories. The man imparts knowledge to the children who are keen on listening and adapting all that information into their social reality and environment.
Q: What attracted you to a career in art – was this always something of interest?
A: Yes. At first, I explored various creative pursuits such as dance, music drama and gumboot dance as well as art.
I was born in a village called Ga-Mmamogwasha located in the district of Zebediela in Limpopo, then having moved to and being raised in Pretoria from a young age I was exposed to more art and creativity. During after school hours I would participate in drama and arts workshops.
My first public outing as an artist was in the form of a mural painted at the Pretoria National Zoo (in 2016). The project was made possible by the partnership between the Zoo and the Tshwane University of Technology.
Q: What does it mean for you as an artist to be included in the Ditikeni Annual Report this year?
A: It gives me pleasure and honour to find myself being included in the annual report. It is my first time collaborating with a big organisation in this way. The process of me working my magic out through my heart was spectacular because I was not limited to anything. All I had to do was to respond to the theme of “Stewardship”.
Q: What support does artists such as yourself need from corporate funders and supporters in SA?
A: Artists need art residences and art centres where they can find the ultimate freedom to produce art works and yet also be taught the business side of an entrepreneur.
Our economy is going down and our Rand is becoming weak. Therefore, it is becoming extremely hard to raise our prices for new buyers of art, and our local supporters.
The market wouldn’t entirely be able to afford high priced artworks and most of the times art collectors barely buy artworks from young and emerging artists, because they still need to make their names in the industry.
The art market in South Africa is very small. The competition is tough and yet corporate funders are few. Most of the time, these big corporate funders prefer working with big artists because it can be profitable and seen as an investment.
Young and emerging artists need support. They need yearly funding and sponsorship to survive, grow, and become consistent in the art industry.
Q: Where can the public see your work – do you have an online portfolio of work?
A: The public can go and view my work at the Pretoria National Zoo, or they can make contact with me on any of the following platforms where they can learn more about my work. They can contact me on Instagram, Facebook or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d like to thank Ditikeni for this opportunity and consideration. I look forward to working with them again in the future.
Thank you for your time, Bruce.