Feni, Dumile

Worcester, South Africa, 1942

New York, United States of America, 1991



DUMILE (ZWELIDUMILE MXGAZI) FENI-MHLABA had been encouraged to draw from an early age, and he continued to exercise his childhood passion for carving and drawing throughout his life. In the early 1950s he moved to Johannesburg and began working as an apprentice at the Block and Leo Wald Sculpture, Pottery and Plastics Foundry in Jeppe. Between 1963 and 1964, while a patient at the Charles Hurwitz South African National Tuberculosis Association (SANTA) Hospital in Johannesburg, Dumile was given art materials. It was in this way that he began his drawing career in and together with fellow artist Ezrom Legae, he decorated numerous walls in the hospital. He received support from Lionel Abrams, Bill Ainslie and Barney Simon. Dumile exhibited successfully for a number of years in Johannesburg and was selected as one of the artists to represent South Africa at the 1967 São Paulo Biennale.

Dumile found his subject matter in the life and events he observed around him. Working primarily with graphic art in monochromatic hues, his works reflect his deep love of music, especially jazz. Dumile was also an exceptionally gifted sculptor, a skill that is clearly expressed in his art. Though executed entirely in a linear fashion, many of his drawings have a profound sculptural quality.

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