Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Colbert Mashile



Colbert Mashile

Boxer in Fine Garb, 2014.


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.


At Last.

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.


Mr. Whistle, 2014.

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.


The Barometer.

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.


The Question.