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Dada Khanyisa Creates Art Without Pretense
Published 9 months ago by

Dada’s work is an autobiographical reflection of her dynamic upbringing, where sneakers, creativity and craftsmanship were at the centre of conversations in her male-dominated home. 

“Pick up the phone”

Dada Khanyisa is a Joburg raised and Cape Town based artist, whose visual interests are invested in texture and multiple dimensions; as a result, creates sculptural paintings and relate-able objects. 

She is a multidisciplinary artist who is into sculpting, painting, figurines, illustrations, and customizing sneakers.  

After studying animation in Johannesburg, Dada moved to Cape Town to do a BFA at the prestigious Michaelis School of Art. A move that has helped her fine-tune her wide array of skills. 

Her work has been featured in a variety of popular art showcases, including Miami Art Basel in America, which happens to be one of the most respected art fairs in the world. 

Khanyisa said: “My visual interests are invested in texture and multiple dimensions; as a result, I create sculptural paintings and relate-able objects. The objects I speak of include a re-interpreted wall unit, figurines, reconstructed sneakers, digital illustrations and sometimes a tattoo on someone.” 

Her work is an autobiographical reflection of her dynamic upbringing, where sneakers, creativity and craftsmanship were at the centre of conversations in her male-dominated home.  

She also playfully touches on the idea of patriarchy in the modern African home, the idea of the male figure always getting the bigger portion of meat or the best seat at the table. 

“Skhocaine”

Love of art and style of work 

Also known as “The Mighty Whale”, Khanyisa defines her style as “nakanjani” meaning “by any means” in Zulu. 

She said: “I usually refer to my craft form or style as ‘nakanjani’, as it allows for the use of different materials and it accommodates multiple outcomes. The craft is not limited to certain subject matters and materials. 

“The love for art came after I realised that I had a good grasp on different forms and their various dimensions. That was during my formative school years. There was a special but uncertain type of fulfilment that came with creating. Through the pursuit of that fulfilment, an imaginary space was born.” 

Khanyisa said the visuals she creates are centered on people and the habits they adopt to keep themselves busy, fed, warm and happy. 

My focus on the human condition stems from the various spaces I have called home; these spaces create a multi-faceted diagram of my reality. I understand that I have to greet strangers in rural KZN, keep my phone guarded while in central Joburg and ask a white mate to call the agent if I am looking for accommodation in Cape Town,” she said. 

According to Khanyisa, her work acts as a social mirror with some distortions which are fueled by the imagination and a particular agenda. 

Most of the work I produce is about the black experience; the weight of the content is based on the currency of memories. I enjoy focusing on what people neglect or take for granted- their daily tasks and what was part of their growing experience,” she said. 

One of Khanyisa prominent artworks is on a wall in Constitution Hill in Johannesburg and is titled ‘Afropolitan Tea party’ and was completed in 2017. 

“Afropolitan tea party”

The mural portrays a group of people sitting at a together at a table but taking selfies on their smartphones except for a lady wearing a t-shirt that reads ‘Let’s put our leaders in rice’. 

Check out more of her work on her website www.themightywhale.co.za  

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