Phillemon Hlungwani

(b. 1975, Thomo Village, Limpopo Province, South Africa)

Phillemon Hlungwani is recognised at one of the most accomplished contemporary artists now working in South Africa. Known predominantly for his large-scale charcoal drawings depicting scenes from rural life and formal and informal settlements, his work is rooted deeply in a sense of community and the traditional values that endure there. Many of his recent drawings include proverbs in his first language – xiTsonga – as ­titles. These proverbs are often difficult to translate into English but they communicate an essential moral idea – showing how members of a particular community are either sustaining or betraying the values of the people living there. The people are inseparable from their environment, although his more recent images have introduced colour into the clothing of his protagonists to help them stand out in all their vibrancy and humanity. The scenes he depicts are usually full of motion and life – the characters bursting with thoughts, opinions and yearnings, which are communicated further through the arcs and lines that weave the different parts of each drawing together. Everything is connected. There is no distinction between the internal or the external, the animate or inanimate, the material or the spiritual.

As a boy, Hlungwani used to herd goats and cattle and look after chickens – and this relationship with the animal world is often present in his work. Trees were also a source of shade and food – both for animals and people – as well as providing places for community debates, ceremonies and prayer. Sometimes, as in the work entitled Vutlarhi bya lava kulu ka hina (The Wisdom of the Old People), trees embody and stand for the human – carrying in their roots and leaves and fruit all that has passed beneath them. Hlungwani is suggesting throughout his work that people who live in the simplest places with few possessions can still lead good, dignified lives and remain happy. They may not have places to go and things to do, but they know who they are – where they have come from and where they are going.

Phillemon Hlungwani was born in Thomo Village, Giyani, in the Limpopo Province. He attended Thomo Primary School and Hanyani Thomo High School, where he developed his skills under the guidance of his art teacher, motivator and friend Muxe Moses Mthombeni – and Queen Mtileni. Having attained an A for Art in Matric, Hlungwani studied at the Johannesburg Art Foundation before studying printmaking under the mentorship of Kim Berman, the late Nhlahla Xaba and Osiah Masukameng at the Artist Proof Studio. Hlungwani later completed a teacher’s training course in Art at the WITS School of Art. He has since been based at the Artist Proof Studio, where he has facilitated classes, been a unit manager for papermaking and was the coordinator for community outreach and special projects at the studio. He has also worked in a range of advisory and mentoring projects. Sponsored by the prestigious Ampersand Foundation Fellowship, Hlungwani went on an extensive study tour of printmaking studios in the United States. In addition to his drawing and graphic work, Hlungwani has completed and facilitated many wall murals including the mural at the Standard Bank Art Gallery (for the Picasso in Africa exhibition) and the mural for Bell Dewar and Hall. He has also been commissioned by the JDA (Johannesburg Development Agencies), MTN and the South African Governmental offices. Awards include winning the King Korn competition (2000 and 2001) and the SABC Radio Station Munghana Lonene FM Log Design Award (2003). He was also one of the finalists for the Absa Gallery competition in 2001, 2002 and 2009.

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2016
From Giyani to Alexandra, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg and Grande Provence Gallery, South Africa

2014
Mi Kondzo Ya Tinghawi/In the Footsteps of Heroes, Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, South Africa
Qunu Drawings, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2013
Cullinan Drawings sponsoed by Petra Diamonds plc, John Martin Gallery, London, UK

2011
New Works, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Solo Exhibition, Knysna Fine Art, Kysna, South Africa

2009
Recent Works, The Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town, South Africa
Tshungulo wuyisiwa e mahlweni (The Healing Process), Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2008
Xitsonga I ndzuti wa Xigaza / The Tsonga is the Shadow of Xigaza, ABSA Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa

2006
Recent Works, The Gallery Premises, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa

2000 
First one-man show in Soweto, sponsored by Kaya FM, The Sowetan, Sunday World and Absolut Vodka, Soweto, South Africa

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2016
Opening Gallery Exhibition, CIRCA Gallery, London, UK

2015
1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair London, UK

2014
FNB Johannesburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa

2013 
Art 13, London, UK

2012 
The 4th Edition of India Modern and Contemporary Art Fair, India Art Fair, India
The 21st birthday celebration of Artist Proof Studio exhibition, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
FNB Johannesburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa

2011
Multiple Views of a Singular Beast, Circa and Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Art Angels Charity Art Auction

2010 
A View from the South, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2009
RENDEZVOUS Focus original lithography, an exhibition of more than 100 South African and French artists’ artworks touring and exhibited in South Africa
The 50s: An Interpretation, Gallery on the Square, Nelson Mandela Square, South Africa

2008 
Knysna Fine Art, Kysna, South Africa
David Brown Fine Art, Johannesburg, South Africa
Aspire Contemporary Art Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa
Gallery on the Square, Nelson Mandela Square, South Africa

2007 
Thomson Art Gallery in Melville, South Africa
SASOL, Rosebank, South Africa

2006 
Gallery on the Square, Nelson Mandela Square
Spark Gallery
Art on Paper
UJ former RAU Gallery

2005 
Touring exhibition to the Gulf of OMAN Community Art Center, Qatar Hotel, Salala

2003 
The Gallery Premises and the Johannesburg Art Gallery

2000 
Heritage Day for Arts and Culture Exhibition, Belgium

1997 
Polokwane Art Museum, South Africa

COLLECTIONS

Ascot Diamonds
Bell, Dewar and Hall, Johannesburg
Bidvest
BLP Merchandising Solutions
Brait,
Centurion Hotel, Pretoria
Ellerman House, Cape Town
Irma Stern Museum (UCT) , Cape Town
Johannesburg Development Agency
Karoo Hotel outside Cape Town
Medscheme Holdings
MTN print exchange
Nando’s
Nedbank, Johannesburg
Norman Borlaug Institute for International Culture, Texas
Raphael Suites and Michelangelo Towers, Sandton
Rand Merchant Bank Corporate Collection
Sasol Collection
South African Reserve Bank
Standard Bank Art Gallery, Johannesburg
UNISA Art Collection
Vodacom

Copyright © 2012 Everard Read Cape Town

Artworks in the SAFFCA Collection