South African-born artist Bonolo Kavula is on the Artsy team’s radar this month. Kavula makes the “Artists on Our Radar,” a monthly Artsy series featuring five impressive artists from all over the world. These artists have been selected because they made an important impression in the preceding month, whether it was through new gallery representation, shows, auctions, art fairs, or new works on Artsy.
Bonolo Kavula (b. 1992) currently lives and works in Cape Town. She is known for her artistic style, which represents a visual language that she developed entirely on her own, drawing from traditions of both painting and printmaking. Her works are elaborate and precise, and they are created from simple materials such as thread, canvas, shweshwe fabric, and glue.
Kavula breaks down traditional materials and ways of thinking in her experimental works, which fuse textiles, printmaking, and sculpture. She began using the shweshwe material, which colonizers brought to South Africa in the 19th century, in her mixed-media works after inheriting a dress made from that fabric from her late mother. The Shweshwe dress is mostly worn by an older generation of women in South Africa. Using her hand, she ties each piece of shweshwe fabric together with thread after cutting and arranging individual discs of the cloth into designs. Once connected, the shweshwe clippings employ negative space to reveal mesmerizing geometric abstractions that pay homage to the artist’s personal history while leaving space for different interpretations from the audience.
Bonolo Kavula received the 2014 Katrine Harries Print Cabinet Award at the University of Cape Town. In 2021 she was short-listed for the Norval Sovereign African Art Prize. In that same year, she presented a solo booth at Art Basel Miami Beach, titled “a re kopane ko thabengshe,” and she had her first solo exhibition, “sewedi sewedi,” at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town. Her work has been presented in group exhibitions like Speculative Enquiry #1: On Abstraction, at the Michaelis Galleries in Cape Town (2019); The Main Complaint, at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA); and Shady Tactics, at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town, amongst others. Her works are included in collections such as Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) Collection in Miami, USA, and the Iziko South African National Gallery Collection in Cape Town, South Africa.