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GAOGANWE CHRISTOPHER (Rochester) MAFAFO
1956 born in Galeshewe, Kimberely
 

Mafafo's father left home when Rochester was four years old.

Mrs. Mafafo not only had financial problems, but had to deal with a particularly restless little son. On his eigth birthday she chanced upon the most effective way to keep him occupied: watercolours, brushes and a sketch pad.

At school he showed an interest in hand crafts and cooking. And there were the music lessons. Even today music permeates his life. His sense of colour is analogous to melody.

To make ends meet his mother started doing midwifery at night as well as working during the day. The 12 year old child was in dire need of attention. "You see, the township children adopt a certain way of living to please themselves mostly if the parents can't provide."

Mafafo says his mother fought hard "To pull me her way." She found work as a cleaner at the Dugan Cronin Gallery. There she met Fiona Barbour , an ethnologist who offered to give Mafafo art lessons at the gallery, free of charge.

She let him paint freely and developed his instinctive sense of colour. After a while a certain estrangement between teacher and pupil ensued stemming from the emphasis on the part of the ethnologist on the tribal background of her pupil. Feeling a very strong urban identity, the young boy began to feel rebellious.

However, at St. Boniface High School, the Roman Catholic school he attended in Kimberely, Mafafo's artistic talents were recognised and under sound guidance he metamorphosed into a serious pupil.

Later, Mrs. Mafafo went to work in Bloemfontein to ease the financial strain, leaving her children with their grandmother in Kimberely.

The oversensitive boy became very quiet and internalised his problems. In those days, Galashewe was torn by gang strife and Mafafo "Got involved in this mess." It was a kind of outlet which rarely worked. One day, inevitably, he found himself arrested for assault and robbery.

Mrs. Mafafo, away in Bloemfontein was in utter despair. She managed to co-erce him through his J.C. examinations and then took him to Bloemfontein to keep him under her supervision for his matriculation schooling.

However Mafafo left on an adventurous job seeking trip to the Transvaal and landed in Pietersburg, where he enrolled at the Mmadikoti Technical College for a course in water purification at Hammanskraal. Things did not go too badly. He completed a two year apprenticeship at Moretele Purification Plant and continued to work there.

Until once again he was overpowered by his creative urge. A most disheartening period followed when Mafafo was seeking recognition as an artist.

However when the Kimberely Social Welfare Society organised an exhibition for black art, Mafafo, together with a number of prominent artists participated. The exhibition took place at the Galeshewe Recreational Centre. Mafafo won first prize in 1975 and was spotted by Eric Mbatha, one of the judges, now a graphic artist who then also happened to be a talent scout.

Mr. Mbatha counselled him to attend Rorkes Drift Art and Craft Centre in Natal. Mafafo studied there for two years: 1976 - 77. The free intellectual climate at Rorkes Drift was immensely enriching to the young artist. "I did many experiments in colour while I was at Rorkes Drift" he says, "Thats where I got the light." His paintings from the Rorkes Drift period were all oils, mostly painted in shades of blue and green, tending towards abstraction.

When he returned to Galeshewe in 1979 - 82 he worked as a foreman painting houses (not canvass) for De Beers. His financial problems were once again overwhelming. He supported his sister at university and spent week ends building a much yearned for studio. He was very often "smothered with frustration". Deprived of the company of other artists, he felt isolated and these feeling reflected in work completed in this period.

He took part in various group exhibitions in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Maritzburg after leaving De Beers mining concern and has worked as a free lance artist since 1982.

His paintings fall within the traditions of representational art. "Realism is important" says Mafafo. Realism puts over the truth to those who would not otherwise see it. I am putting down on paper what is here in the ghetto, so that people can see it and be concerned."

Mafafo records "the futureless townships for posterity" working from an easel at the actual scene. "Galeshewe township in Kimberely is probably the oldest township in South Africa." He used to derive enormous pleasure out of capturing township scenes of Number Two in Galashewe and the relocationof families from Number Two to Katimamolelo (Agisanang) in the eighties. "I aim to capture the colours of the actual township life; the colours of the faces, of rust on the corrugated iron, the red of the bricks, all seem to merge. " His pallette, in his must recent paintings, is muted pastel. Mafafo admits to an artistic liscience saying "The colours too I change. I have to get them all to work together, so that in the paintings there is no friction, only harmony."

'Depicting the beauty which is far more than prettiness particularly from the architectural aspect" he says. He delights in canvassing the way in which the residents have copied their building stylesfrom the europeans using whatever they managed to lay their hands upon and imagination to fashion their houses. But it is a massive struggle to get the picture right. To portray dirty water, the restiveness of the corrugated iron rooves and capture the actual colourfulness of the black person. "They are so close to the soil" he says.

He has a burning desire to capture Alexandra Township in Johannesburg and is currently preparing and exhibition of work depicting Khayalitsha in Cape Town. He enjoys portraying the people in the markets roasting mealies and intestines, selling old shoes,old clothes - the lack of toilets. People are very creative - look at the home made horse drawn carts. He portrays the inclement Cape weather, tells how the gusting south easter snatches his work from the easel.

Watercolours are Mafafo's favourite medium. "I feel I can say what I want with them."

Mafafo is a Rastafarian. " We have to search to find out from where we came and who we are. We came from the north, through Ethiopia, from Israel. We must have faith. Faith is the only solution for this country. When people have faith then there will be no more fear, no more oppression. We must seek Jehova and praise him. We must go back to the Bible, back to origins, to the original law of God. We must go right back to the roots - and then everyone will be free and there will be equal rights. I want to expose what is real for all mankind. When you start talking about race - thats what kills you. Black and white; thats wickedness. We must have Faith, then there will be no more fear, no more oppression."

Rastafarianism is about a new age. It denotes a renaissance of events which happens very fast. It has to do with the renewal and preservation of nature, one another and bringin humanity back to cleanliness and Godliness Mafafo explains.

Today 'Rocky' Mafafo is one of Kimberley's most popular and prolific Rastafarian musicians. He is also chairman of the Galashewe Cultural Organisation which comprises a dozen or so youth groups. The organisation was founded in 1993 and in spite of having to overcome many obstacles particularly funding, they still strive to make others aware of the arts with the view of untiting them into an effective body.

"We have to educate them in the arts and involve society in fostering creativity. At the end of the day we have to nourish their souls with entertainment.

Bibliography; The edition and name of the publications in which the articles appear is not clear on the press clips.

Conservation by Canvas by Vusi Tukakhomo. (Paper? Edition?)

Looking back on Turbulent Times: Ute Scholz published in the Rand Daily Mail.

Theres more to Township than Violence says Chris: Irving Steyn (Paper/ Edition?)

Art must show the Reality of Society - Personality Profile by Paul Hotz for Saturday Magazine 2.10.92. (Paper?)

Vusi Tukakhomo Rocky ; Article on Artists.

Solo Exhibitions :

1989 Louise Rame Gallery, Kimberely

1994 Art Connection, Cape Town.

Group Exhibitions

2014
Talking about Cape Town, group exhibition at The Cape Gallery

2012
Siyakubona, group exhibition at The Cape Gallery

1979 Johannesburg Art Centre, Gallery 1, 1980 Fuba Art Centre, 1980 Bloemfontein Gallery, 4 Group Exhibitions at the Kimberely Society of Art at Thw William Humphreys Gallery, 1993 Art Connection Gallery, 1989 University of South Caroliner College Gallery, 1990 Group exhibition in Israel.

Public Collections:

William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberely.

Duggin Cronin Museum.

CHRISTOPHER MAFAFO
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Artist: CHRISTOPHER MAFAFO
Title: Sheepheads
Size: 84 x 114 cm
Media: Acrylic
Price: R 20 000
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