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Born 1967 in Transkei

One day when Thami visited the gallery we sat down and I questioned Thami on the influences of his work. He started to talk of his childhood, a playful twinkle came into his eye, as he talked about the freedom of going down to the river to collect clay to make animals. He described a rural area where there were no toys so children needed to fall back on their ingenuity to make animals out of clay and discarded bones.

He explained that children made puppets out of found treasures of bones, clay and wood. They used their imagination to bring the puppets to life and stories grew as they played. As he has grown older Thami has managed to keep that childlike play alive and it sparkles in his eyes when he talks about his work.  Kitty grew up in Machibini near Lady Frere and he spent his days looking after cattle and making things inbetween.  At age 10 he moved to Khayelitsha and attended Andile Primary School in New Crossroads. He recalls the teachers encouraged him when they saw his creative talent. “I felt very powerful and good inside drawing” the artist discovered.

In 1988 he left school and joined CAP in Woodstock. He was in the teenage drawing class taught by Lucy Alexander. In 1990 he exhibited his wooden sculptures with Mario Sickel and Ricky Dyaloyi. In this exhibition he uses found wood and let the formal aspects of the wood dictate the subject.

Thami now works where he can find space.  His work deals predominantly with animals. In some works animals merge into humans and so inhabit a mythological space.  His works shows a close observation of the subject with his precise and  detailed chisel work.

Nathalie Bucher in her article in The Cape Time March 21, 2012 observes  there is a soulfulness and a silence which always seems to emerge as he dialogues with the wood. Other carvers produce results quicker than Thami, but speed usually eliminates the spirit that is always present in Thami’s work, whether it is a stand-alone sculpture or a puppet. 

Kitty Dorje

Dream now, dream not, annual Winter Solstice Exhibition, The Cape Gallery

Pause; the annual wildlife exhibition at The Cape Gallery

Siyakubona, group exhibition at The Cape Gallery
Turn Around Time, annual Winter Solstice exhibition at The Cape Gallery

Annual wild life exhibition at The Cape Gallery
Continuum, Annual Winter Solstice Exhibition at The Cape Gallery

Participated in the group exhibition “Encompass” at the Cape Gallery

Thami Kitti, is mentioned, together with Kevin Willemse, as an assistant puppet-maker for the production of Tall Horse. Anglo Gold Ashanti funded his work over an extended period in Handspring’s Kalk Bay Studios.

Worked with Lovell Friedman at Community Arts in Woodstock helping with the display of exhibitions.

Participated in a painting and sculptural project under Jane Alexander; “Shadows of Robben Island”

Attended an international workshop in Botswana.

Thami attended the Community Arts Project working in Sculpture (Wood) and painting.

Attended the Luhlaza High School where he completed Standard 7 in 1989.


“Tall Horse is a product of collaboration of artists from diverse cultures – Malian, South African, Béninoise/French, American and English. It is a story of collaboration among Malian, French, Egyptian and Italian individuals, slaves and kings, scientists and tomb robbers, to bring an exotic, regal and exceedingly rare gift to Enlightenment-Era France. Like the story’s principal characters, we ended up somewhere other than we had imagined we were going to at the outset of the journey. But the road from there to here, like that taken by the Malian former slave and the French scientist, was also one of discovery.”

The producer, Basil Jones noted

“We have been inspired by the Bamana and Bozo puppetry traditions of Mali since our period in Botswana when my partner, Adrian Kohler, brought a Malian puppet back from a buying trip to Johannesburg and I was subsequently involved in the acquisition of a collection of puppets from Mali for the National Museum and Art Gallery. This puppetry tradition is important for world puppetry in that it is one of the few still very much part of village life, entertainment and rites of transition. Not only that, but the actual puppets themselves are created within an extremely rich sculptural tradition.”

Thami Kitty

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Title: Crocodile
Size: 12 x 67 x 29 cm
Media: Wood
Price: R 9 000

Thami Kitty

Article featured in the Cape Times on the 21st March 2012

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