FNB Art Joburg
Sandton Convention
Centre, Johannesburg,
South Africa

Artist of Interest

Three hours

with Turiya Magadlela

“I don’t make abstract work,” confirms Turiya Magadlela. “I don’t want to be called an abstract artist.” It’s a wet Friday morning in Maboneng inside a coffee shop around the corner from Arts on Main where the Centre for the Less Good Idea is. Instead of something with caffeine, or flavour, Magadlela opts for a warm cup of water. She has already had two shots of espresso. 

Describing abstract art as work existing independent of visual references, Magadlela would rather her work sit somewhere between figurative and conceptual. “I do work on the representation of the Black woman. I omit the body because I feel the body of a Black woman has already been omitted so many times it’s the norm,” she explains. “In the workplace, in life, in porn we’ve been reduced to ebony.”

Furthering her point, Magadlela adds how in spite of how long she has had her practice, people in the art world still don’t know what she looks like. “That’s how the human eye has been trained,” she shrugs. “If it were up to the rest of the world, we’re as good as rocks because we exist in a non-existential existence. We are to be enjoyed or put to work. That’s how we are summarised, understood and approached.” Cut, pulled, dyed, bleached, bound, stretched, ripped and repurposed, pantyhose were medium enough to materialise this message. 

Developed over the last 17 or so years, Magadlela’s works always begin with a text-based process. “Whenever I go through experiences or women share their experiences with me, I write about them,” adds Magadlela while scrolling through a notebook app on her phone. “It always starts with these texts I write to myself. You’ll know it when you read the work’s title.” 

With the help of patrons and partnerships with galleries, Magadlela has been operating as an independent artist since 2018. “It’s why I consider myself a baby-adult artist,” she says in spite of multiple local and international solo exhibitions. Explaining the resort to infancy, Magadlela adds, “it’s hard to know how people at home feel about me or receive me as an artist because I haven’t had a solo exhibition in years.”

Open to connection, Magadlela hopes the public will receive her if and when a local opportunities arise.


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