Title: Robben Island
Medium: Ten colour lithograph
Size: 57 x 76 cm
Edition size: 40
Tommy Motswai's work is crammed with bustling activity, of people going about their business, laughing, talking and shouting. Cars and trains rush past, but Tommy Motswai hears none of this, as he has been deaf since birth. What he sees is what is important, and when he puts it down on paper it is a testimony to the joy, excitement and pleasure he sees in the urban world around him. Most of Motswai's prints focus on vehicles, on ways of getting from one place to the next, whether as part of a celebration, journey or event. Vehicles are also a way to physically communicate with the world, something Motswai is an expert at.
Motswai was born in Johannesburg in 1963 and attended the Kutlwanong School for the Deaf from 1968 to 1979. He has since also taught art at Kutlwanong. He began to draw while still at school and continued studying art at the Johannesburg Art Foundation and at the Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA) after completing school. Dumisani Mabaso taught him at FUBA and was a great inspiration.
In 1985 Motswai won a bursary from Sanlam and began exhibiting, including a solo exhibition at the Goodman Gallery in 1988. In 1992 he won the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year award.
Motswai works in pastel and various graphic media. His work is sought after by collectors, and is in major public and private collections throughout South Africa, including The Johannesburg Art Gallery, SA National Gallery and the University of South Africa. In 1994 Motswai was commissioned by French Vogue to do an illustration for the cover of the magazine that celebrated South Africa's first democratic elections.
Motswai first worked at The Artists' Press in 1993 and since then has produced numerous editions at the studio. Lithography particularly suits his colourful way of working, and it is always a great pleasure to have him at the press. His visual skills are remarkably acute, and he intuitively manipulates the complex multiple colour overlays, as if it is something he has always done.