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About The Artist

Artist Photo

Artist Biography

Colbert Mashile is a young artist from Johannesburg whose work deals with tradition, customs and rituals as well as attitudes prevalent in society. As a young boy, Mashile had to undergo certain circumcision rites that left him with a lot of emotional trauma and psychological confusion.

Born in 1972 in Bushbuckridge (Northern Province), he comes from a place which is shrouded by powerful cultural norms and customs. At the age of 10 he had to undergo initiation rituals. The ritual in the Bushbuckridge area is not based on issues of transforming boys into men as such, but to reinforce tradition. Like many individuals exposed to the ritual tradition of circumcision, he has struggled to comprehend the historical nature of the traumatic process and his immediate response to the horror and trauma of the experience was suppressed until a later stage when he realised that he found it difficult to look at gaping wounds of injured people, especially the wounds that were inflicted for ceremonial purposes.

Through the restorative process of creating art, Mashile expresses his emotions and experiences of the past through his artworks. The associated imagery in Mashile’s work includes psychological associations to the circumcision ceremony as well as references to childhood memories and to his childhood home. Driven by the turmoil from within, Mashile’s technique is quick and loose in style, allowing the direction of his image to be the result of his intuitive response. He makes use of psychological images in an attempt to replace horrific scenes, sights and sounds of the initiation ritual. The titles of Colbert’s work are in Sotho and are directly derived from descriptions of the imagery found in each work.

Having completed a BA (FA) from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2000, he had experience with printmaking, but a true comprehension of the process did not evolve until he was allowed to work and experiment at David Krut Print Workshop. An ongoing collaboration began in 2003 and has allowed Mashile to work with various established printers such as Tim Foulds, Zhane Warren and visiting Master Printer Randy Hemminghaus of New York. Mashile has created various monoprints and limited drypoint editions as well as several large, bright monotypes and a series of delicate, monochromatic linocuts.

Artist Photo

Photograph courtesy of Nirox Projects

Artist CV

Education and Training

University of the Witwatersrand
Certificate: Internship Course (June, 2002)
Master of Arts in Heritage Studies (2001-)
Tourism and Developmental Studies
Environmental Studies
Public Culture Studies
Research Report

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts (1996-2000)
Special Awards:
Certificate of Merit: Outstanding Results in Drawing & Design III (1998)
Certificate of First Class: Painting IV (1999)

Johannesburg Art Foundation
Certificate in Art Foundation Course (1992-1994)

Tladishi High School
Matric (1989)


  • My academic experience has equipped me with analytical skills that I rely upon for systematic and logical probelm solving. This is coupled with clear conceptual and visual literacy.
  • My artistic background has also equipped me with necessary exhibition skills and comprehensive gallery management understanding. Most of the experience came through art exhibitions I was involved in since the past eight years.
  • The innovative design skills I possess have enabled me to win prestigious awards including the ABSA Atelier Merit Prize (2000)

    Solo Exhibitions

  • 2015 - Beast of Burden (Solo Show) - NIROXprojects, Johannesburg, March 2015
  • 2015 - S'Ka Motho (Just Like Man) (Solo Show) - SMAC Gallery, Cape Town, March 2015
  • 2013 - Messages from our Ancestors (Solo Show) - Art Eye Gallery, Sandton, Johannesburg, September 2013
  • 2006 - Mmawaka-Montedi (Solo Show) - AVA, Cape Town, 16 October - 10 November 2006
  • 2004 - Tsa Bagale (Solo Show) - Gallery On The Square, Sandton, 6 - 31 October 2004

    Group Exhibitions


  • Les arts de la Coexistence? (Group Show) - Alliance Francaise, Paris, France, January 2006
  • Les arts de la Coexistence? (Group Show) - Musee des Arts Derniers, Paris, France, February 2006
  • New Painting (Group Show) - KZNSA Gallery, Durban, 30 March - 23 April 2006
  • New Painting (Group Show) - Unisa Art Gallery, Pretoria, 9 May - 2 June 2006
  • DAK' ART, Senegal, 1 - 10 May 2006
  • New Painting (Group Show) - Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, 23 July - 3 September 2006


  • Brett Kebble Awards Exhibition 2005
  • ABSA L' Atelier Competition Exhibition, Absa Gallery, Johannesburg
  • Sasol New Signatures Competition Exhibition, Pretoria Art Museum
  • Les arts de la Coexistence? (Group Show) - Migrations Culturelles, Bordeaux , France, September 2005
  • Les arts de la Coexistence? (Group Show) - Médiathèque, Biarritz, France, November 2005
  • Florence Biennale, Florence, Italy, 3 - 11 December 2005


  • ABSA L'Atelier Competition Exhibition - Absa Gallery, Johannesburg
  • Brett Kebble Awards Exhibition 2004
  • Boston, Smithsonian, Gibbs Museum, Detroit - United States (Traveling Show): "A Decade of Democracy: Witnessing South Africa": 2004 - 2005 (Group Show); "The ID of South African Artists" - Amsterdam, Holland: 2004 - 2005 (Group Show)
  • A Decade of Democracy: South African Art 1994 - 2004 from the Permanent Collection (Group Show) - South African National Gallery, Cape Town
  • Making Waves (A selection of works from the SABC art collection) (Group Show) - Johannesburg Art Gallery, November 2004 - February 2005
  • Negotiated Identities, Black Bodies (Group Show) - Johannesburg Art Gallery, 24 October 2004 - 2 January 2005


  • Circumcised/Circumscribed (Group Show) - Axis Gallery, New York, January 2003
  • Art Space, Johannesburg, January 2003 (Group Show)
  • Show Me Home (Group Show) - Johannesburg Art Gallery, 5 April - 25 May 2003
  • A New Collection (Group Show) - Gallery On The Square, Sandton, 28 June - 12 July 2003


  • Art On Paper Gallery (April and August)
  • Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, Oudshoorn
  • Gallery On The Square, Sandton


  • Museum Africa Gallery, Johannesburg
  • The Art Space Gallery


  • ABSA Gallery, Johannesburg
  • UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria
  • Malangatana in South Africa, Sandton Civic Gallery
  • Bill Ainslie Art Gallery
  • Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, Oudshoorn
  • 1998 & 1999 - Martienssen, University of the Witwatersrand
  • 1994 - JHB Art Foundation


  • University of the Witwatersrand
  • SASOL Limited
  • NEDCOR Bank
  • MTN Corporation
  • BHP Billiton (Gencor)
  • South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)
  • Johannesburg Art Gallery
  • E. Oppenheimer & Sons
  • Stanlib
  • The Mandela Foundation
  • De Beers
  • The South African National Gallery
  • Durban Art Gallery
  • YSA
  • IBM
  • 3M
  • African Life
  • Daniel Erasmus Attorneys


    Constitution Hill Project
    August 2002-present
    Key Responsibilities:

  • To conduct research about the Constitution Hill's feasibility as a sustainable Heritage site.
  • To interview selected focus groups are at the site periodically.
  • To liaise with other Gauteng museums and government structures, and use them as case studies.

    Internship Program
    MTN Art Institute
    March-June, 2002
    Key Responsibilities:

  • To research and compile the database of the MTN Art collection.
  • To assist in the facilitation of the Rorke's Drift Retrospective Exhibition being implemented by the MTN Foundation. This includes locating artworks and interviewing participating artists.
  • To deal with the display and exhibition of artworks in MTN corporate offices.
  • To conduct walkabouts and educate community members and school learners about diverse heritage values represented in the artworks.


  • Gaining insight and knowledge of database structure.
  • Liaising in a corporate organisation and being involved in Corporate Citizenship exercises.
  • Improving on my presentation skills.
  • Understanding partnerships and values in the Heritage Industry.
  • Fieldwork and interviewing experience

    Apartheid Museum Project:
    Feb 2001 - Apr 2001
    Key Responsibilities:

  • To locate and collect artifacts from diverse communities that are authentically suited to the criteria of the museum.
  • To interview community members and record oral tradition.


  • To manage and work within the allocated budget.
  • Canvassing large communities and winning their trust to donate valuable objects for heritage purposes.

    Artist Residencies

  • Cavershim Press, KZN, South Africa, 2004
  • McColl Center for Visual Arts: Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A. January - March 2005
  • Cavershim Press, KZN, South Africa. September - October


  • 2000 ABSA l'Atelier Merit Prize
  • 1999 Martinssen Prize, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Certificate of First Class in Painting IV, University of Wiwatersrand
  • 1998 Martinssen Prize, University of Witwatersrand

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