WORDS Lynette Botha IMAGE Lutendo Malatji
With several international shows on the cards, as well as a range of other projects, artist and curator Banele Khoza’s career is going from strength to strength.
He might be an award-winning visual artist and the founder of BKhz gallery and studio, but 26-year-old Banele Khoza says that when he was growing up, a career in the arts seemed like a pipe dream.
Born in Hlatikulu in Swaziland, he moved to South Africa as a teen, later pursuing a degree in fashion design at the London International School of Fashion. Quickly realising that the drawing and design aspects were not as much of a priority at LISOF as he’d expected, he decided to follow his passion for the arts, and transferred to a fine-arts course at the Tshwane University of Technology.
“The lack of belonging I felt in my community growing up is what drew me to art,” he says. “I had to find a way to occupy my mind, so I started drawing and journalling. Through this, I was able to create a world in which I felt accepted.”
With many solo and group exhibitions already behind him, it’s safe to say that his childhood dream has been realised. “I have managed to cultivate this life, which I’m so proud of; now I’m also building spaces for others to realise their dreams,” he says. “This is what helped me take the leap to self-representation – and to open my gallery, BKhz, which I feel has been a defining moment in my career. It’s been a roller-coaster ride, for sure, but the response I’ve had has been phenomenal.”
Asked about the artists he looks up to, Banele says they include Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. “I love her work – she paints so graciously, with an honest perspective.” He also thinks that Lunga Ntila is one to watch – “the future of contemporary art”.
But if he could own just one piece of art regardless of the price tag, it would be Moshekwa by Marlene Dumas – the compelling portrait that inspired him to become a painter. “I draw my inspiration from life and love,” he says. “There is inspiration everywhere in life, and the experiences of life could be love.”
Banele’s upcoming exhibitions include a solo show in the Netherlands titled The Boys I Have Liked, and a group show in London curated by Gabi Ngcobo, and he will once again be co-curating the FNB Art Joburg Gallery Lab in September.
“I will also be going to New York for the Ampersand Fellowship, and I will hopefully get to see life from a different perspective,” he says. “I’m excited.”
Contemplating his journey and where he finds himself at present, he says the advice he’d give to his younger self would be simple: “You are capable. You are worthy of love. You will succeed. It won’t be easy, but you’ll do it.” We’d have to agree…