ARTIST Tumelo Mphela

I use matches and lighters as a symbol of social disadvantage and as a reference to the potential dangers that come with an unequal society like one we have in South Africa.

Born in 1995 in the rural village of Mokopane, Limpopo, Tumelo Mphela was already encouraged by his teachers at the Madibane High School for his art. It was where his surroundings encouraged him to pursue a career in the art.

Tumelo is currently living in Pretoria and studied Fine and Applied Arts at Tshwane University of Technology. While he initially fell in love with pencil drawings with the manner in which pencil can be used to create subtle texture and tone, he has since broadened his range even to some sculptures. His artworks often address social issues and he aims to create an emotional respond to the viewer.

Tumelo Mphela is passionate about charcoal drawing and acrylics on canvas. His works showing kids with match sticks are used as a metaphor on the mining in communities. The matches signify power, energy and action inherent in both victims and the capitalist who are involved in the mining system. Children hold a great power over society’s future but at the same time they are affected by the impact of the mining activities.
With an incredible talent to awaken emotions, Mphela uses the medium to create a sensory experience, a kind of story telling about our fragile environment, our limited resources and socio-political issues.

In his works he often portrays his younger sister by drawing and paintings. The artist connects with them through the process of the art making. Each and every detail, textures and the bright colours he uses heal his soul and give him peace.

View artworks of Tumelo Mphela on ARTSY.