Dumile Feni-Mhlaba (Zwelidumile Mxgazi) (South African, 1942-1991) 'The Prisoner' 148cm (58 1/4in) high
Lot 40B* W
Dumile Feni-Mhlaba
(Zwelidumile Mxgazi) (South African, 1942-1991)
'The Prisoner' 148cm (58 1/4in) high
£ 70,000 - 90,000
US$ 90,000 - 120,000

Lot Details
Dumile Feni-Mhlaba (Zwelidumile Mxgazi) (South African, 1942-1991) 'The Prisoner' 148cm (58 1/4in) high
Dumile Feni-Mhlaba (Zwelidumile Mxgazi) (South African, 1942-1991)
'The Prisoner'
Tallix foundry mark (back of right leg)
bronze
148cm (58 1/4in) high

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    The Dumile Feni Family Trust.

    Dumile Feni is one of South Africa's most enigmatic artists who played an important role cultivating a unique form of expression that piercingly articulated the repressive social, economic and political conditions of his time. Regarded as the master of turbulent imagery, his artworks speak directly of personal experience, indicating the extent to which the political and personal had become inextricably intertwined in South Africa. The draconian system's disregard for black people led the artist into a 23 year period of self-imposed exile.

    Dumile Feni arrived in the USA in 1978 and settled in Los Angeles in the midst of the Black Arts Movement. He was exposed to the critics of the movement who sought what they called a Black Aesthetic (separate symbolism, mythology, critique and iconology), resulting in a transformation of style.

    This sculpture is part of a series conceived in the 1980s entitled 'The Prisoner'. They were conceived as a tribute to Steve Bantu Biko and the great South African photographer Ernest Cole (Ernest Levi Tsoloane Kole) with whom the artist shared an apartment in the 1980s.

    In Cole's 1969 publication House of Bondage pages 28 – 29 depict a group of naked miners undergo a medical examination. The caption reads "During group medical examination the nude men are herded through a string of doctors offices."

    This image provided the form for the above work. Dumile's strong use of line in his sculpture creates an atmosphere of devastating intensity. It is impossible for the viewer not to absorb the message in this piece. Of his work Dumile said: "my meaning or message is universal, human suffering and the state of humanity is universal; only the locations are specific".

    Bibliography
    E. Cole, House of Bondage, (New York, 1967), pp.28-29.
    Dr R. Dorris, 'USA Period: 1977 - 1991, Dumile Feni in the USA', in P.M. Dube (ed.), Dumile Feni Retrospective, (Johannesburg, 2005), p.139.
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