Colbert Mashile

Colbert Mashile is a South African artist from Johannesburg. His works deal with tradition, customs and rituals as well as attitudes prevalent in society. Mashile, as a boy, went through circumcision rites that left him with a lot of emotional trauma and psychological confusion contributing largely to his making influences.

Born in Bushbuckridge (Northern Province)(1972), he comes from a place which is shrouded by powerful cultural norms and customs. When Mashile was 10 the initiation rituals began. In the Bushbuckridge area the rituals are done to reinforce tradition rather than on the basis of transformation of boys to men. Mashile has struggled to comprehend the trauma of the ritual, similarly to the many other individuals who were exposed to traditional ritual of circumcision. As with many traumas, they are initially repressed however do not remain so. His emotions relating to the trauma of the experience were surfaced when he realised that he found it challenging to look at wounds, especially those inflicted for ceremonial purposes.

Through his art practice, Mashile explores his emotions and experiences of the past. The imagery in his work includes psychological associations to the circumcision ceremony as well as references to his memories of his childhood. Strongly influenced by the by the unrest from within, his technique is intuitiveresulting in a quicky and loose in style. His recollection of the rituals are sense based, horrid scenes, sights and sounds and in order to replace these images he uses psychological images.

Colbert’s works are titled in Sotho and are derived from descriptions of the imagery found in each work.

Colbert has a BA (FA) from the University of the Witwatersrand (2000). Colbert work extensively with printmaking producing prints and limited dry-point editions as well as monotypes and monochromatic linocuts.

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