The artwork, Philani, by Dada Khanyisa was installed at Ellerman House with great excitement from the staff servicing the Bar and restaurant. “What a beautiful African” and “I love proteas” with memories shared about growing up with proteas at home, “how mom used to dry it out and keep this special flower…” and many stories of going out with friends drinking Black Label at the braai were spontaneously shared throughout the afternoon. What a wonderful relatable new addition to the Ellerman House art collection – the new stafffavorite!
This work’s isiZulu title ‘Philani’ – translates into English as ‘to live’ or ‘to be alive’ – but it is also the name of thesitter in the piece. In Philani, Dada uses two symbols of South African culture – the Protea and Black Label beer.The artist was interested in the Protea’s ability to withstand veld fires and that it represents diversity andcourage. Black Label is a popular but also an edgy drink – Dada combines these two seemingly disparatesymbols to highlight the complexity and contrasting character of Philani.
The artwork is beautifully constructed with intricate woodwork joinery, woodcarving and hand painted details that work together to create a mesmerizing three-dimensional illusion of the sitter Philani scrolling through messages on her cell phone. Dada is well known for the juxtaposition of natural beauty and aesthetically pleasing scenes with a party lifestyle and consumerism. The work also delves into African identity and popular culture.
Dada Khanyisa was born in Umzimkhulu in 1991 and lives in Cape Town. After studying Traditional and Digital Animation at the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, went on to complete a Bachelor of Fine Art degree at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, in 2016.
Khanyisa won the Simon Gerson Prize at UCT in 2016, was a merit winner at the SA Taxi Art Awards in 2015 and participated in a Fountainhead Residency in Miami in 2018.
Information was taken from the Stevenson Gallery website.