David Koloane was born in Alexandra, Johannesburg in 1938 and from a young age had a passion for art. “I drew everything I came across in comic books and films and always made sketches of my friends” he recounted in an interview for Dutch newspaper Het Parool. Struggling as other Black artists did under the Apartheid regime to access a quality arts education, he was guided by fellow artist Louis Maqhubela who was one of the first proponents of the Polly Street Art Centre and studied for three years with Bill Ainslie at the Johannesburg Art Foundation. Naturally talented, Koloane soon had the chance to play the role of teacher at the Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA) art centre, where he was the head of Fine Arts for a number of years. It was at FUBA that his work was noticed by British sculptor Anthony Caro, who assisted in securing Koloane a British Council Study Grant to further his studies in England where he completed a diploma in teaching at the Birmingham Polytechnic. In 1985 he was awarded a diploma in Museum Studies at the University of London.
On his return in 1985, he founded the Thupelo Arts Project with Bill Ainslie that provided workshops. Koloane was also co-Founder of the Fordsburg Artists’ Studios or the Bag Factory Studios. Equally talented at visual art, writing and curating and a mentor to many artists, David Koloane had a profound contribution to the development of South African art, where his legacy continues through projects like the Bag Factory, and the international Triangular Arts Network. This year, Iziko South African National Gallery hosted a retrospective of Koloane’s work entitled A Resilient Visionary: Poetic Expressions curated by Thembinkosi Goniwe which is set to be shown at the Standard Bank Art Gallery in September - sadly too late for this icon to see in his home city.
Selected Honours and Awards:
Prince Claus Fund 1998
Honorary Doctorate: Vaal University of Technology 2008
Arts Culture Trust Lifetime Achievement Award 2008
Honorary Doctorate Wits University 2012
Honorary Doctorate: Rhodes University 2015
“Art can also play a part in redefining our history to facilitate mutual understanding and reconciliation between people of all races” - David Koloane