Artist Profile


Velaphi Mzimba

b. 1959 in Soweto

Rich colours and universal symbols of peace give testimony to Velaphi Mzimba’s determination to put across "a message of hope and unity in our society" through his art. Mzimba has fully launched himself into the rebuilding of a new South Africa, convinced that his art – as during the time of resistance to apartheid – must partake in the process.

Velaphi Mzimba’s works include paintings, collages and assemblages of found objects such as beaded bracelets, paper bags, pieces of rope, or tin cans. He works in a style not unlike Robert Rauschenburg’s, to whom Mzimba acknowledges his debt. Onto these canvases, which he divides into compartments, Mzimba inserts sets of figures enacting scenes from township life, or elaborate and realistic renderings of tribal chiefs and women. The figures are often juxtaposed with symbols such as the sun, masks, a dove, or fruit – which occupy the other compartments of the work. The canvases themselves often come in a variety of asymmetrical shapes.

Born in Soweto, Mzimba began designing toy cars from scrap wire when he was nine, and selling them to his friends. He then went on to study art at the Mafolo Art Centre (1975-76) and at the Johannesburg Art Foundation (1978-80). He has had several solo exhibitions in South Africa, Namibia, Northern Ireland, the United States and Canada. One of his paintings, entitled Sabuwona - a Zulu greeting - was chosen by former president Nelson Mandela as a gift to the Rockefeller Foundation during a visit to the United States in July of 1993. Mzimba also designed the exhibition poster for the Cultural Diversity exhibition curated by Knight Galleries International for the World Trade Centre in Toronto in 1994. Mzimba has taught children at the Thusong Art Centre in Alexandra and at the Open School in Johannesburg.

Solo Exhibitions include

1981: South African Art - First solo exhibition at the Carlton Hotel

1984: First solo international exhibition at [Groomsport, Northern Ireland]

1985: Shell Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Swaziland

1986: Solo show Washington, USA

1986: Solo show at Leephy Studios, Johannesburg

1987: Solo show in Windhoek, Namibia

1993: The Spirit of Africa, Natalie Knight Gallery [Johannesburg]

1994: Unity from Diversity, Natalie Knight Gallery [Johannesburg]

1995: African Spirits, The Everard Read Gallery [Johannesburg]

1995: Solo show at LFK Gallery [Hong Kong]

2001: Everard Read, Johannesburg

Group exhibitions:

1990: African Encounters, Knight Galleries International [Toronto]

1991: Natalie Knight Gallery [Johannesburg]

1992: Everard Read Gallery [Johannesburg]

1993: Cultural Diversity, Natalie Knight Gallery [Johannesburg]

1993: South African Art, World Trade Centre [Toronto]

1994: Windows on the New South Africa, Knight Galleries, World Trade Centre [Toronto]

1996: Vita Art Now, Johannesburg Art Gallery

1997: Images of Freedom [Arts and Events Gallery, Toronto] Opened by Mr. Patrick Evans South African Consul-General

1997/98: Ndebele Images – Then & Now 1976 – 1998, National Arts Club in N.Y.

1999: ARTLondon ‘99

Grants and Awards:

1993: Designed poster for the exhibition South African Art at the World Trade Centre in Toronto.

Collections Include

Rockefeller Collection, New York


Anglo American

National Art Museum, Frankfurt, Germany



Dallas Museum of Modern Art

South African Breweries


BMW South Africa