Archive: Issue No. 115, March 2007

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Madi Phala

Artist Madi Phala

Madi Phala

Madi Phala
Sketch for S. S. Mendi Memorial 2006

Madi Phala

Madi Phala
Spirits Descending

Madi Phala

Madi Phala
Herdboys 2004
paint and collage on paper
27,7 x 19 cm

Madi Phala murdered

Madi Phala was tragically killed outside his home in Langa, Cape Town on Friday evening March 2. Born in 1955 in Springs, Gauteng Phala was a largely self-taught designer, educator and artist. Phala was associated with the Bayajula arts society in the 70s and participated in the Thupelo workshops from 1985 � 1992. He was included in the famous 'Tributaries' exhibition curated by Ricky Burnett in 1985 and held two solo exhibitions at the AVA (Cape Town) and one at the Bag Factory (Johannesburg).

Phala was commissioned last year by the Sunday Times to create a memorial for the black South African soldiers who died in 1917 when the S.S. Mendi sank in the English Channel. Phala said of this work 'I have put my signature on the Mother City's belly and we've made a baby now. This will be more memorable than anybody else buying my private work and keeping it in their lounge, because now this will be exposed to everybody.' The S.S. Mendi memorial is situated on UCT�s middle campus.

Phala is still most recognised for his surrealist herdboy paintings which, as Mario Pisarro writes, demonstrate his reinvention of herd-boys 'as muses and playful guides for an ongoing series of reflections on cultural beliefs and traditional practices.' These paintings are deeply imbued with an evocative spiritualism.

Marilyn Martin writes of the artist, who was recently employed at Iziko in the Education and Public Programmes Department, 'To have met Madi was to never forget him�. his enthusiasm, energy and excitement about his work here impressed everyone and the sense of loss [at Iziko] is palpable. He loved the environment, which - as he said - opened up new avenues and possibilities for education and for his own work. Madi's life has been extinguished, but he lives and shines through his work and in our hearts.'