Sfiso Mvelase

Sfiso was born in 1980 with a twinkle in his eyes and, despite the difficulties of growing up in KwaZulu-Natal at that time and the poverty he experienced when his father deserted the family, he never lost his sense of fun.

He showed his talent and enjoyment of sculpting at a very early age, sitting on a river bank when his family could not initially afford to send him to school.

But after grade seven this creative young man had no alternative but to support his mother and three siblings with the paltry earnings from his employment as a gardener.

Raphael Njoko, whose family also lived in the Bergville district, introduced Sfiso to Ardmore and to Fée Halsted in 2002 when he was 22 years old.

Fée’s ability to teach and to give space for individual creativity has resulted in Sfiso losing none of the delightful humour and fun of his creative mind.

At first glance, it is almost impossible not to smile at his erotic animal sculptures, but on closer inspection one discovers that embodied in his charming figures there is often satire or a subtle message of significance.

In 2003 Sfiso initiated a body of educational work that deals with a satirical view of HIV/Aids, something which had come to a standstill because of taboos and fears. These works were exhibited at International Aids day in 2009 at the Tatham Art Gallery.

In 2011 his works travelled to the ARS 11 exhibition at Kiasma Helsinki in Finland and his major HIV sculptures were also part of the HIV Human Tragedy collection, selected for the solo exhibit in at the Istanbul Biennale. In 2013 the same works were exhibited at the Gerisch Museum in Hamburg, Germany and in 2014 at the Reina Sophia Museum in Madrid, Spain.

In February 2014 Sfiso’s large wall mural featuring fragments of the wings and heads of Bearded Vultures illustrated the fragility of this magnificent bird’s existence. It was shown at the Southern Guild exhibition in Cape Town.

In October of the same year his Pangolin teapot was selected for the Korean Biennale, African Forms.

And in 2015, Sfiso created two works to commemorate Ardmore’s history as part of the studio’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

In 2017, Sfiso’s exquisite Dancing Elephant sculpture sold at Art Basel, Miami.

Artwork made by Sfiso

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