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Art in a time of war

Model and choreographer Kwanele Finch Thusi unveiled his latest artistic endeavour with “Art in a Time of War, Spirituality and Loadshedding”,  a captivating exhibition featuring a collection of powerful black and white portraits. Finch spoke to GAVIN PRINS about the inspiration behind it.

What was the inspiration behind the artwork?

The work was inspired by the gap I saw between South African artists and world events. As an artist, I could feel how many of us have become distant from creating work because there are so many factors that limit our creativity, such as lack of funds and opportunities. The war itself reminded me of the artists that had a voice but are no more. On the news every day, we see people dying, young children dying! What was I doing as an artist? How can I use my skill to educate, to bring awareness?, to heal, to make things better? It is only through my voice as an artist that I believe can change the way we treat each other as brothers and sisters.

How is the war in Ukraine affecting us and you?

The war is a symbol of power, and as an activist for change, I use my art to reflect, educate and transform.

What would you like people to see in the art?

I would like my art to reflect where and who we are as a society, what changes we need to adopt and  what internal conflicts need to be resolved for healing to occur.

The exhibition goes to France and Canada. That’s really huge.

Thank you. We have many plans to travel but the most important one is to archive our work so that it can be viewed 20 years from now, for example.

Any similar plans for 2024?

2024 and 2025 are big years of change for me. I used to believe in plans until I decided to just do it.

You also refer to loadshedding in your work. This obviously has an impact on your life too.

Yes, like all of us in SA, not having electricity in our lives affects businesses, and this causes unemployment. My work shows the pain and anguish of mental health; when our rights are taken away, we are left in a vulnerable state, and this is what I am hoping to transform through my work.


Johannesburg: 7, Sivewright Avenue (currently)

Cape Town: Woolsack Drive, Rondebosch (April)

Durban: KCAP, KwaMashu, Extension 7. (May)

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