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Grad Guide 2020: Olwethu Mahlathini

Olwethu Mahlathini is of the belief that art has the power to unite people “of different minds, backgrounds and cultures.” Having completed his studies at the Ruth Prowse School of Art, his graduate series of oil paintings depicts a few of the people he’s encountered in his everyday life – speaking to themes of identity, specifically as it relates to culture and heritage, and understanding our role within our immediate environment as well as in society at large. To find out more, we spoke with Mahlathini for 10and5’s annual graduate showcase.

Olwethu Mahlathini

What inspired you to pursue a path in art? 

From a young age I have wanted to communicate my emotion through art and art has been my passion. I just believed that I had to take it further since I realised that it is actually part of who I am, and always has been.

Tell us about your graduate exhibition in terms of concept, medium, process, and the final work(s). 

It was interesting and fascinating having to come up with my own concept and develop my own voice. During the process I felt caught up in the midst of my personalities. This led me to the theme of identity. I think the final works are richer visually than conceptually, but carry a good meaningful message of the heritage and culture of the people.

What are you currently interested in exploring as an artist? 

Currently I think I’m interested in finding out more about myself and the community in relation to art.

What are your thoughts about the role of art in society today?

Art is like revolutionary warfare. It has the power to unite the people together, people of different minds, backgrounds and culture.

Who are some of the South African artists you admire? 

I am inspired by Gerald Sekoto, George Pemba, William Kentridge and Willie Bester.

What are your plans for 2021?

My plan this year includes finding ways to introduce myself to the industry and finding out more about my client base. This includes exhibiting the work.

Young girl in heritage


Grad Guide is an annual series from Between 10and5, profiling some of South Africa’s most exciting creative graduates across the fields of fashion, art, photography and design. Find the full 2020 Grad Guide here.



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