An imaginative South African artist brings his masterful storytelling to a global audience
ATANG TSHIKARE GREW up in Thaba ‘Nchu (‘Black Mountain’), one of several so-called “homeland” states that retained independence from the apartheid South African government, even while being enclosed within its broader territory. He was fourteen when the nation was integrated in 1994 – with the election of Nelson Mandela – and his life has been marked by expanding boundaries. Born in a small state existing within a larger, fiercely demarcated state, he has now arrived as an international figure in art and design, currently collaborating on projects across three continents. Tshikare launched his company Zabalazaa Design in 2010, collaborating with local artists and working on commissions with brands such as Adidas Originals, Puma, BMW and MTV Base. He began exhibiting limited-edition sculptural furniture and functional art, in a variety of forms and materials, with Southern Guild in 2012.
Tshikare’s recent, independently launched solo show, ‘Peo e Atang’, is addressed to his newborn son, Peo. For it, he bound sculpture, music, animation and drawings together into a metastructure he calls a “physical narrative”. The presentation delivers an expansive vision centred on graphical, zoomorphic forms that emerge from fables of Peo’s misadventures. These stories, which the artist began developing even before his son’s birth, reflect the anxieties of a father who knows the world his son will discover is not the world he would give him.
But Tshikare’s love is supported by his talents, which allow him to render a world of his own description, one which, even in its darker fables, pulses with aesthetic beauty. In addition to ‘Peo e Atang’, which is ongoing, Tshikare is currently included in ‘Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room’ at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. He will be unveiling a collaboration with Dior at Design Miami/ in late November.
Atang Tshikare (AT): The project began with a story I wrote in 2006. In 2020, when my son was born I picked it up again and added to it until I felt it had strong characters that could become sculptures. As I planned the sculptures I realised they needed an environment to elaborate where they were based, and so I began to do the drawings alongside the sculptures. This went well and began to feel like an animation movie, so I decided it needed music – this is where I am with the process at the moment. Next year, the first part of the written trilogy should be out and then it will be followed by the music. Hopefully, each year, the sculptures, books, drawings and music will be presented to the world from a different city or continent.
Source: The Design Edit