Artist paints his way to greatness

Visual artist Buhle Nkalashe is posied for a bright future behind the canvass.

Buhle Nkalashe is a visual artist and graphic designer from Khayelitsha who will be having his first solo exhibition at the Youngblood-Africa gallery, in Bree Street, Cape Town, from Thursday December 6 to mid-January.

Born to a high school teacher and a carpenter in 1994, at the turning point of South Africa’s history, Buhle recently graduated from the Cape Town Creative Academy with a BA in Communication, specialising in graphic design.

He has been very quiet this year, working behind closed doors, planning and preparing for this solo exhibition.

While in Grade 9 in 2010 at the Wynberg Boys High, Buhle discovered his ability to draw and took visual arts as a subject from Grade 10 to 12.

He enjoyed painting and his art teachers at the time, Mandy Colman and world renowned artist Hasan Essop, encouraged him to continue with art in whatever career path he chose after high school.

During the time he didn’t think art could have a serious impact on his life; he generally just enjoyed drawing with his favourite medium, oil pastels.

In 2013, Buhle matriculated from high school and in 2014 did a one-year foundation course in graphic design at Learn to Earn.

Soon after that he enrolled at the Cape Town Creative Academy to further his graphic design studies.

During this time, Buhle did commissioned artworks as well as artworks for competitions.

He also applied to various galleries but was often rejected because galleries felt that his artworks didn’t fit in with that of the other artists.

Another stumbling block is transportation of artworks as well as studio space since he creates large scale artworks.

“I appreciate what I have and don’t take anything for granted. I know as time goes on it will get better. As an emerging artist I’ve learned to live below my means as I need enough resources to be able to access materials and services which can help me.”

He finally got a break last year, in his final year at college when he entered a competition that Youngblood was running where various artists got the opportunity to hang their artworks at their gallery. For Buhle, this was more valuable than winning prize money.

Curators Wongalethu Bushu and Ina Wichterich were so impressed with his artworks that they immediately asked if Buhle could do a solo exhibition in 2018.

Shocked and surprised, Buhle accepted the opportunity immediately. He didn’t think he would be offered this kind of opportunity at just 23 years of age.

In January 2017, Buhle started his first job as a graphic designer and also started planning his solo exhibition for five months before he even put paint to canvas. He mainly did research, sketches and read books that inspired and motivated him.

He was interested in Africans who were making a change in their continent. He is fascinated with how African people have been humiliated and ill-treated for many years but still see themselves as important and valuable individuals who have the potential to make a difference in their continent.

He believes that this new breed of Africans see the value of their existence and are slowly appreciating and celebrating that as well.

“In this current generation, Africans go to great heights, making big headlines and chasing dreams and looking beyond the colour black and the expectations and limitations which were once placed upon then,” said Buhle.

The world is taking notice and this new generation inspires Buhle to know that anything is possible and Africans are among the most creative and brightest people in the world. In this exhibition, Buhle expresses what it means to be a New African in his own view, with regards to a new mindset, opportunity, heritage and diversity in celebrating inspirational South Africans.

Buhle didn’t plan for things to turn out this way, as art has quietly followed him like a guardian angel. This angel was embodied by the people he surrounded himself with, who opened Buhle’s eyes and heart to this incredible human spirit.

What was once a hobby turned into a normal lifestyle for him. As he cannot go a day without having contact with whatever is art related.

He was invited to exhibit at the Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch for a group exhibition titled: Palate Plate Palette from April 9 to May 8 2019.

Buhle plans to do another solo exhibition in Johannesburg as well as another one abroad as he feels he needs to take this vision all over the world as it tells a story from a new African mindset, which expresses a positive and new identity.