Nhlanhla Xaba Dies in a Fire
Nhlanhla Xaba, the 1998 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner, burnt to death in a fire that razed the Artists Proof Studios in President Street, Newtown in the early hours of Sunday, March 9. Xaba (43) had reportedly taken to sleeping at the studio occasionally.
A highly respected figure amongst his peers, Xaba first worked with the Bayajabula Cultural Group (a multimedia group of visual artists, musicians and performers) in the early 1970s. "In my art I attempt to convey a painter's struggle," he once stated of his art. "I am concerned with shifting boundaries mental and physical. On the canvas and in life, these boundaries, are continuously shifting and are complex, centred around the economics and politics of place and time, also geography and physical space."
Xaba first studied art at the influential Rorke's Drift centre in KwaZulu Natal, in 1981, the centre closing down (due to unrelated factors) soon after he joined. In 1986 he joined the African Institute of Art at the Funda Centre in Soweto, where he trained as an art teacher and taught both children and adults. Xaba joined the Artists Proof Studio in 1991 as a teacher.
"I attempt to convey - not the simplicity of representation - but a more complex and layered process," Xaba is also quoted as saying of his artistic method. "Neither the painting nor the approach is an attempt to surprise the viewer, instead it recreates what everyone knows. It reflects the process of life and living."
At the time of his death, Xaba was working on an exhibition due to open in June. All of his work for the exhibition, as well as all other artwork at the studio, was destroyed in the fire. The cause of the fire, which started at 3a.m, is unknown.