From security guard to Kasi artist

Eastern Cape painter works from a small mud room

| By
Photo of man outside his mud room, with one of his paintings
Kwanele Bacela paints in a small mud studio in Masonwabe near Ngcobo. Photo: Manqulo Nyakombi

Making your name as a young artist is not easy, especially in rural areas, but Kwanele Bacela from Ngcobo Qhumanca near Mthatha is determined to do so.

The 30-year-old Kasi artist uses a small mud room at Masonwabe township, a few kilometres away from Ngcobo, as his studio and living space. He uses wax crayons and pencils.

But he can’t hang up his works because the mud walls are not strong enough.

The room has a small table with Bacela’s toiletries and a 20-litre bucket he uses for water.

Asked if he had a chair and table to work from, he pointed to his bed. “I put everything here,” he said.

“This is where I spend most of my time drawing.”

Kwanele Bacela hopes to get a chance to work with a professional artist. Photo: Manqulo Nyakombi

Bacela dropped out of school in grade 11 because his mother could not afford to pay his school fees.

He worked as a security guard for six years, earning R1,800 a month, before he decided to pursue a career as an artist.

“I always go to town to look for people who are interested in my work. I target cashiers from supermarkets. I draw them during lunch time while they are relaxing enjoying their lunch. Some give me their photos to draw from,” he said.

He started drawing from an early age, but did not take it seriously until 2013, when he found he did not have money to support his two children. He had been hired by a company in Ngcobo to guard a construction site outside Mthatha, but after two months he had not been paid. He says he complained to the department of labour but without success.

“I had to think of something very quickly to survive. That’s when I decided to start drawing. I started by doing paintings in some schools around Mnqanduli. I accepted whatever the school gave me just to have a meal at night,” said Bacela.

He said after he had made some money, he returned home to Ngcobo and continued with his drawing.

“There was nothing much I could do, because I dropped out of school.”

Bacela charges R280 for landscape paintings, R250 to paint a school badge on a building and R50 a word to paint the name of a school.

After showing us his small studio, Bacela took GroundUp around Ngcobo, where he was greeted by a number of people, some asking him about his work, others making appointments.

He hopes to get an opportunity to work with a professional artist and one day he would like to run an art school and teach young people how to draw and how to sell their work.

“I’m not there yet but I would like to have an opportunity to go to school and spend time with children where I can teach them the importance of art. Art can help take you off the street just by drawing, and you can also tell lots of stories while drawing.”

“As an artist you need to believe in yourself and continue drawing until you run out of pencils,” he said.

TOPICS:  Arts and culture

Next:  A year of living dangerously on the streets of Durban

Previous:  Public cut-out for gay rights

© 2016 GroundUp. Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.