Thokozani Madonsela


Over the years, my work has been most recognizable for its iconic nude, faceless, often laughing figures. This has been a bold statement I have used to depict neutrality in human identity.

Through these figures, one cannot tell what gender, economic status or age the people I represent are. This has allowed everyone who looks at my work to take it as personally as they see fit, seeing themselves through the experiences of the figures on the canvas.

This year, I have not veered far from my iconic figures. This body of work will tell everyday stories of people in the City we reside in. With the use of various accessories, I wish to depict lives from serval walks of life, with the emphasis that we are all visitors in the urban spaces we have grown to call home, that none of us really belong here.

In continuation with the use of my figures to represent the everyday human, I have introduced bold accessories to illuminate the stories and experiences they each have to share. Starting with the introduction of the high/bar stool, which is a graduation from the bench they usually sat on before. This is a slightly more comfortable seat yet still not necessarily a depiction of wealth or success.

It does however elevate my figures to a point of sight amongst others. The elevation could represent either a better financial standing and comfort or a higher social status, elevated enough to speak for others. Another remarkable addition is the t-shirts some of them have on. These are usually in the colours of our top three political parties. This is a jab at the role our politicians should be playing. The notion of t-shirts as political campaigning tools is age old even though its effectiveness is debatable.

These are used both as regalia for the campaigner themselves for visibility as well as bribery towards the poor. My figures wear these as a statement for what we are left with after these elaborately deceptive campaigns are over. One of my favorites is the juxtaposed use of the figures faces. First, I have been able to deliver complex messages through their facial expressions.

The explicit, wide mouthed laughter serving as mockery for any context served by either a fellow figure or the background of the work.

This is juxtaposed by the serious expressionless face that represent dissatisfaction and lack of pride in the context of the work. The second complex is represented by the hand covering the figure’s face juxtaposed by the figures wearing glasses.

The face covered figures would equate to the modern day use of the face palm emoji/emoticon which represents shame or the bold choice to dissociate with whatever context the work places the figure in, whereas the glasses stand for enlightenment, clear sightedness or even elitism. One last noteworthy accessory is the hearts my figures carry with them. 

This symbolizes emotion, humanness. It is to say these are people with lives and hearts that need gentle handling.

All of this said, my figures are representatives of stories we often should include in our small talk. On a regular day, waking up and fulfilling one’s purpose is the anticipated norm.

Marketing & PR Karen Kreutner