“I’ve grown up in the township. I paint what I see and what I find interesting”. These are the words of popular Durban artist, Jabulani Cele, as he sought to explain the inspiration behind his many vibrant paintings.
Born in 1981 in the township of KwaMashu, and now a full-time resident in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal township of Inanda, he is fully immersed in the “township lifestyle”, as he calls it.
Inanda, which was once ranked by the South African Police as one of the most violent and crime ridden townships in KwaZulu-Natal is plagued by dire social circumstances. In his paintings however, Cele chooses to capture lighter and happier imagery.
Looking at his collection of work, it is clear that even though his skills have gotten sharper over the years, his subject matter has not changed. Cele’s paintings noticeably burst full of colour and a relatable character or two.
The self-taught artist is inspired by situations and circumstances that affect people on a daily basis. Whether it is kids playing aeroplanes; a woman waiting to catch a taxi; or kids chasing a truck through dusty roads. His paintings are splashed with ordinary individuals partaking in everyday activities. This (he says) is because his subject matter deals with real surroundings and happenings.
Cele recalls developing his love for painting quite early in life. It was at the tender age of five when he first avidly took to drawing. This later turned to oil and acrylic painting as he progressed throughout high school. Before matriculating, he fully cemented his love for painting by entering the Sasko Sam Bread competition where he came out second.
It was in 2004 when he caught his first big break as he got introduced to the owner of Mark Galleries, who became impressed with his work – so much so that he gave him the opportunity to display his art at an Ushaka Marine based gallery. Cele sites this as a big stepping stone. It not only saw him immerse himself in his craft but it also allowed him to dabble in other art forms.
In an attempt to challenge his creativity as an artist, he has turned to fashion and jewellery design in order to develop himself further. This move has enabled Cele to learn how to survive in the arts industry. Even though he has his hand in more than one cookie jar, he affirms painting as his go-to form of artistic expression.
Cele’s work has been commissioned as murals by the eThekwini Municipality; a painting for Chief Albert Luthuli, and private collections for Moses Mabhida Stadium. He regularly partakes in art exhibitions for galleries as well as the African Arts Centre.
For commissions and enquiries, visit: www.kznsagallery.co.za & https//afriart.org.za
~ Thabisile Ngeleka