Today’s youth have a wide array of career avenues. On one hand it is exciting to have so many possibilities but it can also be stressful and overwhelming with people unrelentingly asking, “What are you planning on doing with your life?”. However, this was never the case for Leevi Matthew, who has always had a knack for the arts.
It was back in grade 2 when the Durban-born Visual Artist realised that he possesses this talent, and so he never looked back. “In high school, visual arts was one of my three major subjects. I really found a relationship between the Visual Arts and I had this ability to draw and paint,” said Matthew.
Upon matriculating, he decided to pursue his love for art even further. This found the artist at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) studying and eventually graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art. The 23 year old finds it easy to be socially conscious and says that his artworks always carry a message. “I feel like it’s important that we speak to each other; that we see life through other people’s eyes. At the end of the day, regardless of our differences in culture, religion, ethnicity, education or upbringing, we all have so much in common,” he added.
“Art is a lifestyle, it cannot be planned. It just comes naturally for me because life is art and art is life.”
Many of Matthew’s artwork is inspired by what he sees in everyday life. It is also inspired by South African politics; both past and present. “I feel like a journalist but my stories are not in words, they are in pictures,” he explained.
“Where Were You?” is one of Matthew’s pieces which was inspired by a picture taken by Sam Nzima during the 1976 Soweto Uprising where Mbuyisa and Makhubo are holding Hector Peterson. In the artwork, Matthew merges the realities of the youth of the past and present, where Makhubo is carrying a teenager who is holding a phone.
“My work is about the present and it’s relationship with the past. It’s inspired by my experiences with movements such as #FeesMustFall, #FreeEducation and #FreeBonginkosiKhanyile. My work asks questions. It asks how far have we come since freedom and democracy,” he continued.
Matthew says that it is important for him to relay these messages in his artwork, especially in a post apartheid South Africa. He believes that a large part of South Africa’s population is not only still divided , but still lacks socio-economic opportunities. His viewpoint is that South Africa is not poor and has the potential to look after it’s people collectively, and that it needs to address the social & economic issues that it’s people are facing.
Matthew, who is this year’s finalist in the prestigious SASOL New Signatures Competition, finds that art fits itself seamlessly into his life. “If I’m not making art, I’m thinking about making art or different things that have to do with art. It just comes naturally for me,” he said. When giving advice to upcoming artists, he emphasized the need to be passionate and unwavering in your message. Although he says that the art industry is not easy to get into, Matthew believes that young artists should pride themselves in their work and believe in whatever message they stand for.
For Commissions and Enquiries, visit his instagram account: @africansoilx and/or facebook page: Leevi Matthew
— Thabisile Ngeleka