Artists We Love: Atang Tshikare

WORDS Celeste Jacobs

The first chapter of Atang Tshikare’s Peo e Atang, inspired by the birth of his son, has drawn to a close but the story is far from over. Here, the artist behind what will become a trilogy of tales talks about what lies ahead for the protagonist as the narrative unfolds.

Tell us more about your exhibition and the series it forms part of?

The first instalment of the Peo e Atang exhibition closed on 19 May 2021. It’s the first part of the trilogy that comprises artworks, a short novel, music and animation that we’re going to exhibit over the next three years. Each exhibition will show the progression of the journey that young Peo undertakes, how he evolves through the experiences and creatures he encounters on his expedition towards self-discovery. The visual artworks include sculptures and drawings of Peo as well as the various characters he meets along the way.

 How many pieces did Peo e Atang consist of?

The show consisted of 12 sculptures on the floor, four sculptures on the walls and three suspended from the ceiling. Additionally, four photographic prints and 14 drawing prints were also included.

What materials were used to bring the first instalment of Peo e Atang to life?

The core materials I used for the sculptures were wood, bronze, stone, tourmaline gemstones, and heavy-duty black plastic,

What is the theme of this body of work for you and what makes it significant to you?

The overarching themes are hope, self-realisation and transcendence of self through adversity. The body of work is about a journey that young Peo undertakes and all the help and challenges he encounters on the way until he reaches a point where he understands himself better, and begins to appreciate why he had to go through what he had to go through in order to rise above and thrive in his life despite the adverse conditions.

These themes are significant to me because in the last two years or so, I underwent similar experiences of transcending adversity and discovering who I truly am while being hopeful that Divine intervention and providence would see me through the challenges I was dealing with.

I noticed how the same experiences were happening to many people around the world in various ways and appreciated that hope is the number one thing we have as spiritual beings. I started to realise that we must transcend all the difficulties and challenges in our lives so that we can get to a place of enlightenment – a better place in our existence and that without hope, our entire existence would be incredibly bleak.

What inspired this collection?

The body of work for Peo e Atang show was inspired by the conception and birth of my son, Peo. Peo’s mother, Tlalane Lekhanya-Tshikare, who is a sociolinguist PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town, and I started the research and writing process around the time when we found out that we were expecting. Peo e Atang is essentially a coming-of-age narrative that begins in the desert, moves to the forests and mountains, and ends up by the seaside on a journey of self-discovery. Based on the fictional experiences and characters that 11-year-old Peo encounters on his journey, this narrative is meant to be a guideline to Peo’s life, and it informed the entire body of work for the show with this first instalment that includes sculptures, photographic prints, and drawings.

atang tshikare

Looking ahead, what’s next for you? 

The plan is to publish the first instalment just before the second exhibition of the Peo e Atang trilogy. Planning is already underway for this while I work on commissions for local and international clients.

As Peo e Atang continues to evolve, keep up with the latest from Atang on Instagram