Solomon Sekolelah

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Solomon Sekolelah

Solomons’ work has its own distinctive style and flavor. He mainly works in an oil based media on paper and combines his paint with some of the fine powder like sand that can be found on the golden “Mine Dumps” surrounding Johannesburg; hence the name Egoli which translated means “City of gold”. The mine dumps have a rich golden color and are the remnants of the tons of earth remaining after the gold ore has been extracted there from.

There are several hundreds of these mine dumps surrounding the gold mines on the Witwatersrand area. Solomon had developed a special affinity towards these dumps as he once worked in a gold mine to make a living for him and his family. Solomon also realized that the white mans greed for the yellow metal extracted from the earth was insatiable, and that it was this greed that brought thousand of people out of their rural tribal existences into the Witwatersrand area. The industrial machine created by this greed was moving forward and it needed cheap labor to turn its wheels. This need was met in the form of hundreds of unskilled tribal villagers moving into the mushrooming urban towns with the promise of a prosperous live awaiting them. Solomon saw how this thin thread of “Gold” changed the lives of thousands of people and ultimately would change the destiny of a country. He saw how mothers were forced to go out and find work in the homes of the white population, leaving a generation of children that was being brought to adulthood by their grandparents and other family members. This would later become one of the prominent themes in the works of Solomon, depicting the return of the mothers after a long days work in either the homes of white people or working in the production lines of companies that were barely able to keep pace with the fast and rapid demands of an expanding population. He somehow managed to capture in his works of art the exact feeling that one feels when entering one of these townships even to this day.

Due to the fact that there are still many people living in these townships that can either not afford electricity or simply does not have the luxury of living in a normal home, a lot of wood and coal is still being used to fuel fires with. These fires are either used for cooking, heating water, bathing or as a source of heat during the very cold winter months. This has the effect that there is always a haze of smog and smoke hanging over these areas either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when people are either getting ready for work or preparing for the evening. When one stands in the marble and chrome high rise offices of Sandton this haze hanging over the nearby townships of either Alexandria or Soweto can clearly be seen. Only then does one realize that, even to this day in post apartheid South Africa, 1st world luxury exists with 3rd world poverty still lingering on the horison Solomon has managed to capture these emotions and feelings in a very unique way that makes one vividly aware of these images. The smoky haze that he creates in his paintings can almost be smelt when looking at one of them. The edges of the corrugated iron shacks can be felt under ones fingers when you touch his textured paintings.

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