Q&A with Simphiwe Kaka

Simphiwe Kaka is an emerging artist based in Cape Town, South Africa. His work is filled with symbolism inspired by the infamous Leonardo Da Vinci.

Having worked closely with prolific artist, Cinga Samson, Simphiwe shares how he also uses his art to inspire the youth.

Kaka loves hiding certain information in his work – a fun challenge for viewers to see if they can find what he has hidden.

His new series of artworks explores the ‘unpopular Xhosa man’, which questions gender and stereotypes in the daily lives of African people.

Simphiwe hopes that it will lay a foundation for other heterosexual males and females to resonate with the plight of the LGBTQ++ community to be accepted as equal members of society.

Afrinova had a chat with Kaka, and found out more about his upbringing, his method when approaching a canvas, the new project he is working on and more.

Q: Can you share about your background - for example, your childhood and when you became aware of the fact that you wanted to become an artist?

A: I grew up in Cape Town in a place called Khayelitsha, in a shack and started drawing before I could even write. I was one of those kids who were often in trouble in primary school for drawing in books instead of writing. It was only when I was doing Grade 8 that my talent was realised and I received a scholarship to study art at the then Frank Joubert Art Centre in Rondebosch, Cape Town.

Q: Your decision to fuse oil on canvas and the impasto technique has created an identity in your work. How did you come across this method and why does it work so well for you?

A: I became fascinated by the works of old masters such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Rembrandt (to name a few). I then decided I wanted to bring back this ancient style but fusing them into contemporary compositions and install my own flavour. However, not taking away their rules of fine craftsmanship, but instead elevate them into something the world will be seeing for the first time.

Q: Why is it important for you to have the youth view their current political climate in society?

A: In school we are taught history and unfortunately, not all of us are fortunate enough to study politics. I took politics at university level for one year in order to have a clear picture of what happens in our political realm. I narrate my work with an intention to not only conscientiously reveal current political views, but to make the youth interested in understanding the political scope of their society to make better life choices.

Q: What was it like working with Cinga Samson? What did you take away from that experience?

A: When I met Cinga he had ideas which blew my head away. We worked hand-in-hand and shared almost like brothers. He taught me a lot about the industry and most importantly, he is the reason I am now comfortable to go on my own and realise my own dream. Having worked for him for 12 months, I am grateful for the experience which I have gained.

Q: Da Vinci has played a major role in inspiring your work. Please can you tell us more about this inspiration.

A: I have always been fascinated by the way Da Vinci painted and it’s only until 2019 when I took a year doing research and studying how he painted that I decided to practice and master his technique named ‘Sfumato’. His technique forms the base of my style.

Q: You are working on a new series of self-portraits that represents the "unpopular Xhosa man". Can you share more on this concept? Where can it be seen and when?

A: Last year (2020) I spent the whole year painting other people and that's when it hit me that I haven't focused on myself more. This is why I am analysing myself deeper and decided to paint how I like. The "popular Xhosa man" is the one seen as perfect and does things according to a code of conduct which we Xhosa men are taught during circumcision. I, on the other hand, have never been one that follows the crowd. I wanted to narrate the current Xhosa man the way that society always hides or omits to show. The concept will be an ongoing exploration of self and will be exhibited on different corners of the world in the years to come.

Q: What more can we expect from you in 2021 and come 2022?

A: Expect to see works you've never seen before. I have tons of tricks up my sleeve and want to take people on a journey which not only boasts a rare painting skill, but boasts uniqueness and originality too. Prepare to see me standing next to influential people that move and shake the world into positive directions.

View Simphiwe's bio and artworks Here