Thokozani Madonsela

Thokozani Madonsela was born on 28th February 1988 in Mpumalanga, South Africa.

He graduated from Artist Proof Studio with certification in printmaking.

He works as a mural artist, painter and print maker as well as specializing in a variety of media, such as charcoal drawings, painting and mosaic art.



My work is inspired by the realities of daily existence, which play out in the spaces in which I interact, whether it be my own experiences or experiences of others that I observe.

In drawing inspiration from my surroundings, my work tends to reflect on the many socio-political and socio-economic factors which affect this country (South Africa) and its peoples.

The non-identifiable naked characters in my work are created to personify the “every man” of the country, and the laughing caricatured nude figures embody the multi-dimensionality of a country in constant transition.

The lack of clothing of these figures symbolize a stripping of, or a sentiment of, baring all. An ideal of vulnerability stands in stark contrast to the gaping-mouthed laughter of these characters.

With these two polarizing elements, I aim to convey a sense of the openness with which many South Africans have had to, and continue to be forced to, endure the circumstances which have been dealt to them: circumstances of socio-economic inequality which existed during our Apartheid era, and which continue to exist post ’94.

My figures laugh in part as a symbol of mockery of the status quo, and in part as an alternative to crying. This too, is in reference of the view of Westerners who see the toyi-toyi as a celebration rather than an action of protest.

My use of the other elements in these works is intended to anchor the concept presented in my work.

The benches on which my figures sit reference a specific design which featured prominently in rural or impoverished areas of the country. These benches were often riddled with splinters, unevenly balanced and uncomfortable to sit on. They are intended to symbolize a historical and systemic discomfort which still exists today. 

In addition to the social discomfort, I also use newspaper elements to tie in the political implications which add to the overall sense of unease present in current day South Africa.

Whilst many of the pictorial devices I use in my work point to the past, the discontent of contemporary existence is portrayed by the addition of spectacles worn by my characters. These spectacles not only reference the confusion and angst of dwelling in a disenfranchised existence within the country’s “born frees”, but simultaneously makes reference to the culture of escapism present in the filtered “realities of social media”; where smiling, laughing and feeling powerless to deal with the real world are the norm.

In short, my works are portraits of a society which is trapped within the socio-economic and political realities of a modern-day South Africa.