Dumisani Mabaso (1955 - 2013) was an artist and printmake whose life and work is inextricably linked to the history of South African Art. He was introduced to print making by his father who worked at a printing press and took his first art classes at the age of thirteen. Mabaso trained at the Rorkes Drift Art Centre in KwaZulu Natal in a time when access to fine arts was largely denied to black communities.
Mabaso taught at the Johannesburg Art Foundation, managed by Bill Ainslie, where many great South African artists started their careers. Central to the foundation was creating space for artists from all racial and social backgrounds to learn, exchange and create and artistic community.
As a young printmaker he moved around in art circles in Johannesburg and got a job with the South African Council of Churches where he taught women to weave and spin after his application to the all-white Wits Technikon was turned down. During this time he travelled to Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia attending workshops and improving his artistic skills.
Mabaso was often forced to change studios as a result of the then Group Areas Act. He then established Sguzu Printmakers Workshop in Soweto where he explored abstract painting and intaglio printmaking. A master at manipulating materials to derives their maximum effect, Mabaso saw printmaking as a way to give artists the opportunity to tell their stories through art, where images were a common language.
Although often unwell in the last quarter of his life, Mabaso continued learning and expressing himself through his art. He particularly benefited from collaborations through the William Humphrey Museum in Kimberley which holds a substantial collection of his artwork and where he was housed during the last years of his life. Over his career Mabaso has worked and collaborated with many artists and printmakers including the established Artists Press in Nelspruit run by Mark Attwood.
Mabaso was an inspiration to many South African artists, through his art and nature as a quiet, gentle man who displayed strength in his commitment to expressing his emotions and sharing ideas though colour, texture and form. May he remain an inspiration for many years to come.
Through this retrospective, we hope to commemorate the life and enormous contribution Dumisani Mabaso made to South African art and inspire audiences and artists to continue their commitment to storytelling through art.