Sfiso Ka-Mkame was born in Clermont, Durban in 1963. He studied art in the 80’s and gained fame in 1988 when he sold his ‘Letters to God’ series of drawings to the South African National Gallery in Cape Town. In 1996 he held his first solo exhibition at the BAT Centre in Durban and has exhibited extensively since then.
Mkame was active in the United Democratic Front (UDF) and his early work reflected the political conflict, daily struggles and hardships he witnessed around him. His work is very decorative, demonstrating nostalgia for African symbols; a quest that became more urgent and challenging for him after SA’s first democratic elections in 1994. He began searching for symbols of an African identity beyond the confines of his own region and this is reflected in his paintings.
He builds up dense layers of colour with oil pastels and then scratches patterns to create images, symbols and designs which are almost textile in nature. He usually titles his works and this provides the viewer with the beginning of the story or narrative that has inspired the work. It is the African women resplendent in magnificently coloured and patterned gowns and the representation of the kings and queens of Africa in equal importance that currently dominates his artwork, reminding one of the work of artist Gustav Klimt.