Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi’s ‘Ntlo E Etsamayang’ (The Walking House) comes to the UJ Art Gallery 6 April – 17 May

The University of Johannesburg Art Gallery in partnership with Everard Read Gallery and the Embassy of Sweden Pretoria, proudly presents: ‘Ntlo E Etsamayang’ (The Walking House), a compelling exhibition co-curated by Gabriel Baard and Prof. Kim Berman. This exhibition honours the remarkable artistic journey and commitment to Indigenous Knowledge Systems of Mmakgabo Mmapula Helen Sebidi.

Opening publicly on 6 April 2024, the exhibition commemorates the recovery of 28 lost artworks, discovered at the Nyköping Folk High School after 32 years of their disappearance in Sweden. Join us at the UJ Art Gallery as we unveil these long-lost treasures to the public for the first time.

‘Ntlo E Etsamayang’ is a triumphant celebration of Sebidi’s artistic journey, confronting themes of self-positioning, power, responsibility, and healing. This exhibition reflects on the exchange of knowledge between South Africa and Sweden, highlighting Sebidi’s dedication to facilitating communication of the socio-political conditions that govern day-to-day existence.

Sebidi’s artworks serve as a powerful reminder of the enduring connections forged through artistic expression and cross-cultural dialogue. These artworks not only reclaim lost masterpieces to the public eye but crucially resurrect a critical chapter in the national artistic consciousness. Each artwork communicates an acute and unbounded search into the relationship between humanism and spiritualism of the contemporary black African lived experience.

This exhibition highlights not only Sebidi’s early artistic endeavours but also a pivotal juncture in her practice, heralding a significant moment of stylistic transformation into a new idiom that would pulsate with energy; part figuration, part abstraction, yet continuously seeking to escape the boundaries of both. Her art depicts the disordered and often uncomfortable process of decolonising, through which she has cultivated a visual language that compels us to feel things and perhaps even devote our own lives to the cause.

‘Ntlo E Etsamayang’ will be on display from 6 April to 17 May 2024 at the UJ Art Gallery on the University of Johannesburg’s Kingsway Campus in Auckland Park.

Thereafter, the walk-about dates will be as follows:

10 April 2024, 12:00-13:00

13 April 2024, 11:00-12:00

20 April 2024, 11:00-12:00

4 May 2024, 12:00-13:00

11 May 2024, 11:00-12:00




Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi



Mmakgabo Mmapula Helen Sebidi was born in 1943 in Marapyane (Skilpadfontein), in the Hammanskraal area of the Northern Transvaal. As her mother was working in the city for much of her childhood, she grew up with her grandmother, who taught her the values that would guide and sustain her life. This includes the channelling of spirit back into the world through hard work, the commitment of the self to the community, but most of all through acts of creativity – whether this be cooking, making mud walls, creating murals, making pots and calabashes, weaving, beading, dress-making, drawing or painting. For Mmakgabo Sebidi, the artist starts from a root of pain and conflict and works her way towards the redemption of both herself and those around her through the act of making. The creator becomes invisible during this process and is the channel through which the spirit world flows. The artwork can be seen as the trace of this redemptive journey.

Mmakgabo spent much of her young adult life as a domestic worker in Johannesburg. She spent her spare time making dresses and knitting. When a German employer starting painting, Mmakgabo expressed an interest in painting herself and was given her first set of oil paints. She then sought lessons and joined the art classes of John Koenakeefe Mohl before returning to Marapyane to look after her ailing grandmother. The following decade would see her developing and refining her art in the rural areas, returning to Johannesburg only to exhibit her work – first at Zoo Lake, then at the Art Foundation and finally the Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg – and to buy more materials. Through the Art Foundation, Mmakgabo won a Fulbright Scholarship, which led to a tour of America, where she met up with the ‘stolen people’ (African Americans), ‘the people whose land was taken from them (Native Americans) and those who work the land (farmers and agriculturists). She concluded that we have far more in common than whatever separates us and that all the lessons she has needed in her life were available to her through the teachings of her grandmother and her community. That same year she also won the  Standard Bank Young Artist Award.

Mmakgabo is without question an inspiration and pioneer to the younger generation of South African artists. Working predominantly in pastel, acrylic and oil paint, she has developed a distinct style that uses vibrant juxtaposed colour, distorted perspectives, human and animal figures, dream images – often in a pointillist, stippled style of pastel or paint application. More recently she has returned to sculpting in clay and this exhibition features the first of her sculptures ever to be cast in bronze.

Today Mmakgabo Sebidi is based in Johannesburg, where she continues to make work and spend much of her spare time helping to inspire and encourage the younger generation – especially of artists. She is represented by the Everard Read and CIRCA galleries in Johannesburg, Cape Town and London.



1977-88 Artists under the Sun, Johannesburg

1980-88 Brush and Chisel Club, Johannesburg.

1980-81 Washington, U.S.A (organized by a private collector).

1988 S.A Potters Association.

1986 FUBA, Johannesburg, (Solo Show).

Art for Alexandra, Sotheby’s, Johannesburg.

Thupelo Workshop Exhibition, Johannesburg Art Foundation, University of          the Witwatersrand

1987 Vita Art Now, Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Delfiri/FUBA Creative Quest Exhibition, FUBA

FUBA (Seven Woman Artists)

Thupelo Workshop exhibition, toured to Johannesburg Art Foundation and NSA Gallery Durban

Standard Bank National Drawing Competition, toured SA.

1988  Detainees’ Parents Support Committee – 100 artists protested against detention without trial,

The Neglected Tradition”, Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Art Images in Southern Africa, group show, in Stockholm, Sweden exhibition

1988-89 Cape Town Triennial, toured SA

1989 Ten Years of Collecting, University of the Witwatersrand.

Standard Bank National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown, resulted in a touring solo show, visiting museums and galleries, ending in Namibia in 1991

1990 Art from South Africa Exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford

Mozambiquan National Gallery

Zabalaza Festival, group show as part of South African Festival, Institute of

Contemporary Arts, London

1991 A Grain of Wheat, Group Exhibition, Art Gallery of the Common Institute, London

Standard Bank Young Artists Award winners Exhibition, Namibia

The Challenge to Colonization, group exhibition, 4th Havannah Biennial, Cuba.

1992 Future Realsms, Two person exhibition, The Afrika Uturistic Gallery, Johannesburg

Art from South Africa, S.A. National Gallery, Cape Town

Standard Bank Young Artists Award winners Exhibition, Zimbabwe National Gallery

1992 Woman from Africa Exhibition, Savanah Gallery of Modern Art, Bethal Green, London, representing eight woman artists from Africa

African Hei-iti-@e, Group Exhibition, Uranienborgreien, Norway

Graphics Exhibition, Jyraskyla, Finland

Group show – Biennale Italy

Three person show with Lucky Sibiya and Noria Mabasa, Everard Read Gallery

Group show, Stedelike Museum, Amsterdam

Il Croce Del Sud”, Rome, Italy

1993 Six Women from Southern Africa,” Exhibition in Lisbon, 1994

Civic Gallery, Johannesburg

1994 Bienale in Museum Africa, Johannesburg

Finders Keepers,Sunday Times, Cape Town National Gallery

The Laager, included in a group exhibition, Museo de Arte, Pretoria

Contemprario Santiago, Chile

Centre of the Arts Yerba Buenga Gardens, San Francisco

South Africa’s Finest Painters, The Everard Read Gallery

Common and Uncommon Ground, South African Art to Atlanta, City Gallery East, Atlanta,            Georgia

Solo Exhibition, London

Solo Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany

1996 Thopelo Art Workshop and Exhibition, Cape Town, South Africa

1999 Human Rights Institute Exhibition, National Art Gallery, Durban

Changing Screens Exhibition, The Firs, Rosebank

1999 Judging University of North West

1999 Judging of competition at Wits University

2000 Axis Gallery, New York, USA

University of Illionois, Urbana Champaign, Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion

2001 The Markers exhibition, Venice Biennale, Italy

2002 Art in the context of the World Earth Summit on sustainable development

International traveling exhibition, “World Women, Visible Visions from International Woman,”  opened in Johannesburg

2002       International world summit exhibition, Tilburg:

2002      Judging of Sasol competition

2003 Solo: The artificial shelter foundation: Tilburg

2002      Judging of competition at Wits University

2004      Exhibition “Visible Visions” Traveling exhibition: Germany: Hagen, Essen, Berlin, and    Osnabrueck; Holland, Tilburg

2005 Telkom exhibition

2008 Joburg Art fair 2008 with Everard Read

2009 Great South African Nude Exhibition, Group Show,  Everard Read

2013        Centenary Exhibition, Group Show, Everard Read Johannesburg

2016 Exhibition at Stevenson Gallery

Solo Show, Everard Read Johannesburg

Group Show , Fundação Bienal de São Paulo

2017 Johannesburg ArtFair, Solo Stand

2018        Batlhaping Ba Re!,  Norval Foundation  Crossing the Night, Group Exhibition, Mexico



Africana Museum, Johannesburg

Art Workshop, London

Sasol Collection

Unisa, Pretoria

University of Bophutswana, Mafikeng

Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg

JohannesburgArt Gallery

Centre for Africa Studies, University of Cape Town

South African National Gallery

1820 Settlers Foundation

Standard Bank Collection

Pretoria Art Museum

The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington

University of the Witwatersrand

Price Forbes

Federated Insurance Co.

Department of Education and Training

Galerie Adriana Schmidt

S.A. Perm

University of Wolverhampton

  1. Roque Investments


World Bank

South African Broadcasting Corporation


First National Bank

S.A. Permanent Bank

Government of Australia

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, New York USA

The South African Reserve Bank



1988 Star Woman of the Year finalist

1989 Fulbright Scholarship – World Exhibition New York

Standard Bank Young Artist Award

1990 Vita Fine Art Award

2002  Nomination for the 1st nominee in the Human Sciences Research Council Living Treasure Award

2004 Award of the order of Ikhamanga silver award given by the Presidency, the Republic of South Africa,


2005    Nomination for ILKSSA: National Heritage Council, National Living Treasure Award


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