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Dumile  

Steven Sack

(Feni) [Zwelidumile Geelboi Mgxaji Mslaba Feni]

(b Worcester, Cape Province, May 21, 1939; d New York, Oct 16, 1991).

South African sculptor and printmaker, active in South Africa, London and New York. After his mother’s death when he was c. eight years old, he lived with relatives in Cape Town until the age of eleven. In the early 1950s he moved to Soweto under the care of his uncle. In 1963 and 1964, while undergoing treatment for tuberculosis, he was given some art materials and began his drawing career in earnest. Like many black South African artists from the late 1950s, Dumile had to negotiate the laws of apartheid that made his presence as a self-employed artist in the white city an offence. Dumile described himself as having never received any ‘real’ tuition and talked of artists learning from one another. Dumile was ‘discovered’ by Madame Haenggi, an art dealer who promoted his early work.

Before his departure from South Africa in 1968, Dumile had a number of successful exhibitions of drawings and sculptures comprising portrayals of tormented and anguished people, animals and township scenes. These early works were acquired by some of the major museums in South Africa. On arrival in London (...