Litha Ncokazi is a young man, but the legends he puts into his ceramic art are the millennia-old Xhosa cultural icons, told to him by his grandmother in his home village. Critics are already tipping Ncokazi as one of the leading young South African artists of his generation – and a man to invest in.
Litha Ncokazi is a young artist based in East London, a coastal town in the Eastern Cape province. As the owner of a little company called Art Versatile, Ncokazi paints and works his magic on ceramic pieces.
There are two major influences in his life, and both stem from his Xhosa roots. The first is his grandmother, who headed up the large extended family he came from in the little village of Cwecweni in the Eastern Cape. His grandmother used to tell the children stories of their clan, the legends of the Xhosa people and accounts of village life. Ncokazi was also a witness to the daily struggles village women undergo to this day, in an effort to support their families.
‘But despite their hardships, these women made the most of life,’ Ncokazi said. ‘For everything they did, whether it was fetching water from the river, tilling the fields or chopping wood for the cooking fires, there was a song. So I created one piece called Music as a Catalyst in honour of them. I depicted different parts of various musical instruments and put them together into one shape that has both music and motion in it.’
As a result, Ncokazi’s evocative sculptures are full of narrative. They all tell part of the story of his life, and the lives of his people.
The other Xhosa influence in Ncokazi’s work is the clay he uses. It comes from the Eastern Cape, is naturally a deep red colour and is smeared on the faces of the Xhosa people. This clay, with its distinctive tones, is also used to make pots and decorations.
Ncokazi’s style is to leave the sculptures mostly unglazed and then apply iron oxide, copper and manganese to reveal the magic tones of the clay. The Art Versatile collection includes bowls, jars and vases, some functional, some purely decorative.
Ncokazi began his life as a young artist back in Cwecweni, drawing sketches of Bafana Bafana (the national football team) heroes for his schoolmates. Later, he completed a National Diploma in Fine Art and went on to study for and complete a B Tech Fine Art degree at the Walter Sisulu University.
He is a gifted young man doing all the right things. Having found his niche and produced world-class art, Litha Ncokazi is casting about East London for a good gallery location and marketing his work to the world at large on the Internet.
‘I have also learned the value of networking, on the Web and with other tourism entrepreneurs, and am convinced that I will be linked to potential markets, both here and overseas.’
This article was originally published by southafrica.net