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FNB JoburgArtFair: Art Prize Winner, Turiya Magadlela talks working from the inside out

Turiya Magadlela_Kaffersheet installation view, JAG, 2015_03

Kaffersheet installation view at JAG


Turiya Magadlela was announced as this year’s FNB Art Prize winner last night. Working with fabric, Turiya creates deeply personal artworks that are inspired by both lived and imagined experiences. The layers of material that she stretches across frames evoke intimate narratives and histories.


Turiya will present a new work entitled Imihuzuko at the FNB JoburgArtFair, which explores the literal and metaphorical idea of grazing the skin. She began work on this series in 2013 in an ongoing contemplation on the history of incarcerated black South African leaders. Using traditional Xhosa cloth and correctional service fabrics with their torn edges, creases and exposed stitching, Turiya tells a story of our complex history in subtle, minimal compositions. Individual works are named for past incarcerated kings, chiefs and prophets such as Kgosi Galeshewe, Langalibalele and Hintsa.


The focal point of Imihuzuko will be a large-scale instillation comprised of steal institutional beds arranged in a cell-like constellation and ‘dressed’ with these fabrics. The installation examines what it might mean to be incarcerated and brings into sharp focus the realities of present day prisons in South Africa.


Please tell us about the show you have planned for the FNB JoburgArtFair and how it relates to your wider practice? 


My work is a continuous effort, and what you will see at the Art Fair doesn’t begin there. It began long before the Fair; it’s a journey, a continuation of a journey that signifies many contradictory paths – working at a shopping centre, after I came back from Europe, insisting on not selling my talents for less than what I felt they were worth, motherhood, sisterhood, losing a kindred spirit, my father, relationships made through life, all that. We all have our own stories. I have titled the show Imihuzuko (which is a word literally used to signify an act of grazing one’s skin, for example if you have fallen off a bicycle. At that moment, just after that fall, you will inspect your graze, you will feel the pain, and at that point you will either choose to stop and weep or ride on. And so metaphorically Imihuzuko is pain felt, not deep enough that one is wounded, beyond repair. It’s one that gives you pain but also one that you have mind space or control over) and this is what this show is about or rather what you will see as part of my journey. This journey is created using fabrics and objects that mean something to me or that make me want to attempt to share my experience of ukuhuzuka with the viewer. I hope that this can evoke their own imihuzuko, which will hopefully create a new story for each viewer. Imihuzuko is not a needle prick, it’s not bumping your head against the wall; it’s the effect that causes those tiny grazes formed on your skin, mostly made from falling.


Turiya Magadlela_Umudiyadiya, 2015


Turiya Magadlela_Kaffersheet installation view, JAG, 2015_02

Kaffersheet installation view at JAG

Turiya Magadlela_Kgosi Galeshewe, 2014

Kgosi Galeshewe


Was there a point in your life that you decided to be an artist or to pursue art as a career or was it always inevitable?


My father is an artist and my mother is a writer. Our house or rather my father’s house and my mother’s house were both filled by artists, poets and politicians. I wanted to be a psychologist, a doctor or someone who read loads of books for money. One who healed people. I went to art school and gradually dropped my academic subjects in favour of art, and by the time I left school I realised I had done nothing else but art, sculpture, painting, design. There was only maths that I enjoyed immensely. So I couldn’t go to university, I could only go to Technikon. So I decided I would pursue art and I promised myself that if I chose this miserable career, I would put just as much effort as a doctor would put into his practice. So that’s what I did, peeling it layer by layer like an onion, being very careful and at times extremely desperate, but I always had a bigger picture; a bigger art picture. I still do.


How has your work changed since you first started out? How have you grown as an artist? 


My work hasn’t changed but it has evolved and grown. There are techniques I explored as a student which I felt were genius, however I haven’t the capacity to explore them further on my own. Another point is that my work has a value now, so I am very careful on finishes, techniques and mostly longevity, for example will it rot with time, gather dust or stay as new? I have seen great work deteriorate in some private collections, and while I feel one has to experiment with techniques, some are not worth exploring unless the process itself requires decay or deterioration.


Turiya Magadlela_My womb is at fault 5, 2014

My womb is at fault 5

Turiya Magadlela_My womb is at fault 4, 2014

My womb is at fault 4


What has driven these developments?


In my third year at Technikon I shared a space with a couple of students and for some reason we would spend hours exploring techniques feeding off each other and this gave me a fearless stance in art making. In Europe this was enhanced as it was encouraged to test your technique thoroughly before making art, planning accordingly, and seeking advice from other makers, so most of the techniques I use have been tested extensively. I don’t just decide to make and do, I explore, test etc. I have fumbled many times but there are techniques that I trust.


Do you feel artists have a responsibility beyond sensory expression to make work that educates, critiques or makes a statement?


Art has to be autonomous before anything else and thereafter it has to be beautiful; if it educates or makes a statement that is an added bonus. But I think it would be a heavy burden to always attempt to make political statements of your works. I believe that one just has to create from an honest perspective… if you are working honestly, who you are will come through so if you have a desire to educate, your work will automatically educate, or make a statement. But the minute you start form the point of creating a statement, you have gone off the track.


What do you believe your work’s purpose is? 


To be autonomous, beautiful and emotive.


Turiya Magadlela_Kulungile 1, 2012

Kulungile 1

Turiya Magadlela_Lindelwe, happiness after 12 hours, 2012

Happiness after 12 hours


In what way do your surroundings influence the work you make?


I work inside out, so it’s not my surroundings that will influence my works rather feelings, internal dialogues, experiences, emotion, and mood.


Please tell us a bit about your work’s relationship to the past. 


As I said I work inside out, so a process will start with a feeling whose subject I will research, explore and exploit artistically until an object emerges. If I’m with the kids washing dishes, my mind will linger on feminism and female artists for example, then I will search and read about how the subject has been dealt with in the past and if I find good metaphoric material to use then I will work with it and develop it and create objects.


Another example is the prison series, which began while I was in Europe waiting for my resident permit. I felt free in a restricted space as I was unable to travel outside the Netherlands. The same thing happened in other countries, and I then started to explore the idea of prison. This led me to the prison series, which can lead me to other things.


Turiya Magadlela_Kaffersheet, 2013


Turiya Magadlela_Kgosi Robanyane, 2014

Kgosi Robanyane


Does your own personal history factor into this?


Yes, it does. In my research and stories told to me by my parents, for example, of feministic experiences, ideals, apartheid and my father’s experience of being in solitary confinement for a while. If it’s not that, then it’s my lineage, being a Mpondo woman, born of a Hlubi woman, growing up in an urban environment. This plays a big role, indirectly yes, but the role is big.


What is the significance of the various materials and mediums you use in your work? 


If I could, I would make the world an artwork and that would be my canvas. I would use things in the land to make people feel good. I just love creating and making things. Right now I have mostly restricted myself to a square format and this is where I play, this is where I can be me, so I use any found fabrics that mean something to me and my work. I like form, texture, relief; I like shadows.


What do you hope viewers take away from your art?


They need to find their humanness; I want them to see themselves in my work, I want them to have self-realisations, I want them to smile and frown and be angry and smile again. I don’t know, I guess I want to move.


Turiya Magadlela_Wounds that never heal, 2012

Wounds that never heal
Turiya Magadlela_Sohlangana, we meet, pacman, 2012

Sohlangana, we meet, pacman

Turiya Magadlela_Makhanda-Nxele, 2013


Turiya Magadlela_Kaffersheet installation view, JAG, 2015_01

Kaffersheet installation view at JAG


All images courtesy of the artist and Blank Projects



See Turiya Magadlela’s Imihuzuko at the FNB JoburgArtFair from 11 – 13 September at the Sandton Convention Centre.


Opening Times:

Friday 11 September from 11am – 8pm

Saturday 12 September from 10am – 6pm

Sunday 13 September from 10am – 5pm



R500 for Thursday night’s Opening Preview Party

R100 on Friday

R130 on Saturday / Sunday

R260 for a Weekend Pass

Buy tickets online or at the door.


Between 10 and 5