Phillip Rikhotso

BORN:     1945 in Mamedwa in the Tzaneen area

Philip Rikhotso lives in Dzumeri, Gazankulu - a desolate and drought stricken area in the Northern Transvaal.  He speaks Tsonga and a small amount of Afrikaans and had no formal schooling.  He is a self-taught artist who began carving in 1977.

Rikhotso won first prize in the Giyani Agricultural Show in 1981.  In 1990, a collection of his work, >The Spooky Family=, was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford for the >Art from South Africa= exhibition.

Rikhotso is a prolific carver, using quinine or marula wood - a medium indigenous to the area.  He has also used soapstone when this has become scarce.  Imagery is often drawn from two points of reference; the physical world which Rikhotso observes around him and personal interpretations of Tsonga legends and folklore.  Rikhotso often combines these in a somewhat random and arbitrary way and the final sculptural image that is created is a mythical and imaginative one.  He often integrates an animal and a human form into one image or combines features from many different animals such a aardvarks, armadillo, crocodiles or birds with devilish horns into one representation.  Alternatively, he may sculpt two separate images and then combine them into one, creating a totem-like representation.  Rikhotso incorporates found objects into his sculptures without modifying them in any way.  Examples are radios, speakers, steel handles, a crocheted hat, animal fur and a whole goat=s skin.  Figures are embellished with such items as earrings, bangles and flamboyant attire such as nail polish, resulting in many of his sculptures being quite humourous.

Rikhotso uses traditional carving tools such as the adze, chisel and scoops.  He utilises a variety of media to colour his sculptures such as wax crayon, enamel paints or PVA.  The final coat is usually a light varnish.

The work of artists such as Rikhotso can be understood within a cross-cultural context that many living in the rural areas of South Africa find themselves.  Although their lifestyles are dominated by traditions (as is their artistic style), they have become aware through rural-urban movement, of a world which is far more complex and driven by a commercial value rather than a spiritual and cultural one.  The work of Rikhotso is a response to this new awareness.

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