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Courtesy of the artist and of ADA \ contemporary art gallery.

Ode to Rousseau

Spotlight: Sensuality Meets Acceptance in Zandile Tshabalala's Self-Portraits

Get familiar with the provocative works of Soweto-born South African artist, Zandile Tshabalala.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and more who are producing vibrant, original work. In our latest piece, we spotlight South African self-portrait artist Zandile Tshabalala. Her debut solo exhibition titled "Enter Paradise" is set to be showcased at the ADA \ contemporary art galleryin Accra, Ghana from February 25th to *March 26th. The exhibition features acrylic paintings depicting sensuous Black women at one with their bodies and sexual nature. Follow Tshabalala's work on both Facebook and Instagram.

*The exhibition has now been extended to April 18th.

Responses have have been edited for length and clarity.


When did your journey as an artist begin?

I've always been in touch with my creative side. I used to draw a lot of paper dolls when I was in primary school and I wanted to be a fashion designer. I got introduced to fine art in grade 10 when I took visual art classes and made the decision to study art further. My family and I were not in agreement with this decision so I would say that studying art was a way for me to rebel (we eventually came to terms as my passion and dedication were evident). Although I've always made art, it is only in 2019/2020 that my works began to be publicly recognized and that I began to be taken seriously as a practicing artist.

What kind of visual artist would you describe yourself as?

I'd describe myself as a figurative, self-portrait artist with a lot of imagination.

What would you say are the central messages/themes in your work?

Representation, rest, self-reflection, body positivity and dreamscapes are what I tackle most. As I continue painting and engaging with my curiosity, my work evolves.

Enter Paradise is your latest exhibition at ADA \ contemporary art gallery. Tell me what the inspiration behind that is.

The inspiration behind "Enter Paradise" comes from a series I did titled "Paradise" that is heavily influenced by the likes of Henri Rousseau. The term "paradise" itself has been central in my thinking and also in my living as I had to find and make a utopia out of the most mundane activities and spaces. Observing and reflecting led me to a different kind of paradise that is always present but often overlooked. It is the exhale and the moments of simple leisure that I was mostly interested in for this particular show.

The Black female figure at the heart of this exhibition is visually quite distinct. Explain that a bit more.

The woman that is depicted is myself. I do not aim or aspire to depict an exact likeness, but rather a reflection that is more internal. My paintings are very reflective of the artist and sometimes there are clues in there as to how I think and who I am. I had the pleasure of having my first male muse also in the show (I'll leave it to my audience to spot him).

Take a look at some of Tshabalala's work below:

Zandile Tshabalala - OkayAfricaEnter Paradise ICourtesy of the artist and of ADA \ contemporary art gallery.

Zandile Tshabalala - OkayAfrica


Enter Paradise IICourtesy of the artist and of ADA \ contemporary art gallery.


Ode to Rousseau IICourtesy of the artist and of ADA \ contemporary art gallery.


Study of a Nude (Self)Courtesy of the artist and of ADA \ contemporary art gallery.


Scrolling Courtesy of the artist and of ADA \ contemporary art gallery.


Untitled
Courtesy of the artist and of ADA \ contemporary art gallery.


Proud Nude I
Courtesy of the artist and of ADA \ contemporary art gallery.


February FlowersCourtesy of the artist and of ADA \ contemporary art gallery.


Proud Nude IICourtesy of the artist and of ADA \ contemporary art gallery.

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