Redefining Life, 2019, Mixed media on canvas, 186 x 166 cm (Detail)

The Melrose Gallery is pleased to present Papytsho Mafolo’s ‘The Whispering of the Stars’ in February 2022. His first solo in South Africa will showcase a large body of works created in 2021 including several extremely large paintings.

The Whispering of the Stars explores traditional African mythology and belief, that views the sky, the moon, and the stars as part of the Earth. It was believed that celestial phenomena were natural signs united with the Earth in harmonious synchronicity.

This new body of work created for his solo exhibition continues to present the realities of an African culture fragmented by foreign hegemony via figures half human and half animal dancing across his canvases.

The exhibition works to deconstruct through his constructions of Africa’s European-made identities. The figures work to shift and mirror life in constant dialogue with the sacred, each passing moment becomes a call to listen to the whispers of the invisible lips of the spiritual world. What emerges is a view of nature as something imbued with a rich religious significance.

Born Congolese and now based in Belgium,Papytsho has spent a considerable amount of time living and working in Europe.

Seeing everything as relationally in conversation, Mafolo evokes this by collaging gold leaf, printed images, acrylic but also oil paint and unfinished lines on a canvas. These unfinished lines, according to Mafolo, evoke an infinite world but are also a self-reminder that artistically, he has not arrived yet.


The Soul of the City II, Mixed Media on Canvas, 130 x 130 cm, 2019

Symbolically this represents how Africa was Europeanized, made to be devoid of its African identities by an imposition of a European identity. Bantu philosophy emphasizes this as it is based upon the belief that life is a vital unity and that the human being is only a point on the cosmic circle of life. The distinguishing features of this philosophy are its welfarism, altruism, universalism, and basically its utilitarian outlook.

Central to it is the near-universal lesson that ‘to be human is to affirm one’s humanity by affirming the humanity of others. Thus, individualism is what threatens humanity and the lines left unfinished in Mafolo’s work leave room for another, his spiritual self or you to finish. This cultural mix from which our time has inherited must be seen as an opportunity towards perfection and not as an element of destruction of our values because in this meeting of give and take everyone makes their contribution.

The exhibition runs from 4 February to 6 March at The Melrose Gallery in Johannesburg and online on www.themelrosegallery.com

Papytsho Mafolo The Wise Man ,100 x 100 cm, Mixed Media on Canvas, 2019


Papytsho Mafolo All Lord All Honor 200 x 250 cm Mixed media on canvas 2021

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