Vusi Khumalo (South African b. 1951) is a contemporary artist born in 1951 in the small town of Balfour North, South Africa. Throughout his life, he took up art courses in South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. He was awarded a one-year scholarship at Konstfack Art School in Sweden in 1994, a degree which paved the way for future exhibitions and collaborations.
Intrinsically connected to the burgeoning “squatter” communities that live in the suburbs of South Africa’s major cities, Khumalo’s oeuvre is impactful and moving. Sonnabo, Informal Settlement (1999) is a truthful representation of indigenous communities that live in ‘informal settlements’, bearing stories of apartheid, displacement and hardship.
His present work can be regarded as a visual ethnographic account built up from a mixed-media collage on board that brings together locally collected materials, such as discarded tins and cans, stones, clothes and wood in order to recreate the original atmosphere of the setting. The ‘informal settlement’ is, therefore, rendered realistically not only through the compositional subject matter but also through the selected assemblage of everyday objects with which the artist is more than familiar, himself having lived in a shack.
What clearly distinguishes Sonnabo, Informal Settlement (1999) is its trapezium-shaped board that heightens perspective by bringing forward the foreground in a physically enlarged format, while condensing both the background and vanishing point into a narrower space at the top of the board. Although Khumalo is well-renowned for his exquisite talent of rendering perspective and creating emotionally charged imagery, the overall visual effect of this collage is particularly imposing through its unusual shape which allows for the artwork’s message to protrude into the viewer’s reality.