A short documentary featuring local, Durban-based artist, Ceasar Mkhize whose whimsical angel and animal sculptures are sold in HACT’s Woza Moya craft shops.
Videographer: Bandile Mnguni, 2020
Ceasar Mkhize is a musician, dancer, and storyteller, but he is best known for his whimsical angel and animal sculptures which have received international recognition. He is a family man and his relationship with his children is very important to him
Ceasar was born in Durban in 1970 and grew up in the tough and sometimes violent environment of KwaMashu L Section. He lived there with his parents and siblings until he was 14 years old.
After his brother was fatally stabbed, Ceasar and his remaining siblings were sent to live with their grandmother in rural Mandeni where he lived for 6 years before returning to KwaMashu.
Ceasar’s talent as an artist was recognised from an early age and he was supported and encouraged by his family. His mother nurtured his skills and sent him to holiday art classes organised by the African Art Centre, a Durban-based organisation that promotes and trains black artists.
In 1994 when he was accepted into the Velobala Art Project, hosted at the Durban University of Technology and funded by the African Art Centre.
This opportunity was a turning point for Ceasar as it made him realise that it was possible to make a living from art. He took part in the project for 3 years and learned a variety of art forms including sculpture, pottery, and painting.
In 1998 Ceasar attended a doll-making workshop at the Durban Art Gallery. It is the skills that he learned in this course that inspired his art form – wire sculptures covered in cloth and then beaded to bring them to life.
Together with his then partner Thafa (the mother of his children), he started to create the animal sculptures he became recognised for. Ceasar made and covered the metal frames for the sculptures and Thafa created the beadwork on the fabric covering.
Paula Thomson, our Woza Moya Executive Manager, describes Ceasar’s work as follows: “The sculptures are made from a wire maquette, with a soft black cloth covering and foam support, that is then encrusted with swirls of beads in what can only be described as Crazy Caesar style. His pieces have an unusual visual appeal in that the proportions are either exaggerated or minimised, which gives the animals a curious imperfect perfection.”
Ceasar started to make a name for himself as a developing artist in 1999 when he and Thafa were chosen, through the BAT Centre, to participate in a Miss Universe project (working on a jacket).
Their beaded animal sculptures went on to receive international recognition in 2001 when they were chosen to represent Africa in the Listening to Africa exhibition in Chicago.
In 2006 Ceasar had another opportunity to go abroad, visiting Germany as an ambassador for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Ceasar had a difficult time after he and Thafa split. He recovered his passion for his craft when he became involved with Africa Ignite as part of their Inanda Heritage route.
This route takes tourists and interested visitors through the Inanda Valley visiting some of the important, but lesser-known, historical sites of Durban including the Multi-Arts Centre, Ghandi Settlement and John Dube’s house.
Ceasar was added to the route as a prominent artist in the area.
Ceaser has vast knowledge and skills to impart and is involved in a programme in his area where he teaches art. Knowing how rough his childhood was and the difficulties he faced in pursuing his studies, Ceaser offers his service for free to interested young artists.