In the third instalment of Okayafrica’s new Studio Africa series, Celma Costa sits down with artist and creative consultant, Banele Khoza, ahead of his debut solo show at the Pretoria Art Museum.
The art of Banele Khoza is exquisite, unruly and just enough of weird. Born in Swaziland, the Pretoria-based illustrator and creative consultant founded his artistic brand, BKhz, when he was 18. Now 22, Khoza is making a name for himself in South African art circles. At the 2016 Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg, Khoza added his own spin on traditional fashion show coverage with a series of digitized illustrations of his SAFW highlights. In March, he was selected to participate in the prestigious Lizamore’s Johannes Stegmann Mentorship programme, where he’s been paired with South African painter and printmaker Colbert Mashile.
This weekend, Khoza makes his solo exhibition debut at the Pretoria Art Museum. On view through 4 September, Temporary Feelings features a series of ghostly works in watercolour and sharper digital illustrations. We caught up with Khoza over Skype ahead of the show’s opening.
The following interview has been edited and condensed.
Celma Costa for Okayafrica: When did you come up with the idea for BKhz?
The BKhz vision was born in my early years, when I was 10 to 11 years of age, where I envisioned it as a fashion brand, until it took a turn into fine art.
Who is your audience?
I’ve always thought my audience to be the people I post directly to online. But reality is not quite like that. My art has caught the interest of a wide audience, from the TATE Museums’ curators to my selfie-confident friends on social accounts. I have a growing, supportive audience that is both personal and belonging to the art community, enabling me to exhibit physically in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Through Instagram and Facebook the audience keeps growing and the artwork is able to reach all the world’s corners.
When did you begin to focus on your art? What’s been a surprising milestone to date?
As early as 2008-2009 I knew my aspirations were set on art, so I’d gather materials and strive to be better than the day before. Professionally, 2011 became the year of change. I started gaining a client base and would often “power-dress” to meetings while I had nothing in my pockets.
A surprising and also my greatest personal achievement has been the privilege to follow my dreams. Born in a town that has a population of no more than a thousand, with career aspirations limited to being a teacher or a police officer, or a doctor if you were really “lucky.” The fact that the TATE panel in Africa looked at my work and thought it appealing is still a shock. The TATE Museums’ curators have supported me, and having them watch over the back of my shoulder has been both a highlight and also a great deal of panic, as they began acquiring my work while I was still in university, mostly in my last year… The pressure was on, and I was okay with it.
What makes your art different?
My work is a response to my instant thoughts and emotions, and the following day, I will probably be thinking about something else. Except for when I have a crush––which I’ll obsess over three months. My work is intensely personal, but also a public diary. A working response to my environment, and I’m not shy to let my audience in. My medium is a constant play been traditional and new medium.
What’s been an unusual compliment you’ve received?
People relate to my work on a personal level, and that, for me, is a huge compliment. More than that, I’ve been asked to exhibit at the Pretoria Art Museum. Something I honestly never saw coming.
How do social issues and realities play into your artistic body of work? What do you aim to portray and convey through your art?
The relationships between people and the role that technology plays into forming and destroying human bonds. This is what I’m currently affected by.
What’s the inspiration behind your new solo exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum, Temporary Feelings?
Temporary Feelings is a response to my gauge and measure of feelings. Noticing that I can shift from happy to all of a sudden grumpy and irritable––hunger being one of the culprits of the sudden change. However also being away from family, as I see them at least once a year, and my friends all of a sudden who have all parted to other parts of the country, has all left me vulnerable in the city. Going back to my inspiration, also crushing on someone for a lengthy period, which I have in this period, has been the base of Temporary Feelings or what I had hoped to illustrate.
Does the Pretoria Art Museum get enough recognition?
I don’t think [it does]. There is a misconception that it’s a house for the elite, and also the general thought is that it houses old items. However there are new exhibitions occurring, constantly.
Do you make art to inspire action or stimulate thought?
I currently create to stimulate thought, questioning what art is and also stretching the considerations of what is art. The response to this has inspired a number of people to actually realise that their time to succeed in their practice begins now, not in ten years or after they get their degrees, but now. Now is the time to be active and chase all the available opportunities.
What’s next for you?
Turbine Art Fair is next. It’s the first time I’ll be showing on the walls of the galleries that I’ll be exhibiting with. Last year my work was available on the folders. It’s a step up. Then I’ll be preparing for my upcoming solo exhibition at Lizamore and Associates in March 2017 with the aid of Colbert Mashile as my mentor throughout the process.
Temporary Feelings opens 9 July and runs through 4 September at the Pretoria Art Museum.
Celma Costa is a lover of all things bright and yellow, with an unorthodox taste for neuroscience and politics. Keep up with her at her blog, The Nomad Settler.