Dumile Feni

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Dumile Feni (left) and South African jazz drummer Louis Moholo in 1971
Dumile Feni
Zwelidumile Geelboi Mgxaji Mslaba Feni

(1942-05-21)May 21, 1942
Burial placeLenasia, South Africa
NationalitySouth African

Zwelidumile Geelboi Mgxaji Mslaba "Dumile" Feni (May 21, 1942 – 1991) was a South African contemporary visual artist known for both his drawings and paintings that included sculptural elements as well as sculptures, which often depicted the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa.[1] Feni lived in exile and extreme poverty for most of his art career.

Early life[edit]

Feni was born in the small farmstead of Withuis in Worcester, Cape Province, South Africa, to parents Geelbooi Magoqwana, a trader and evangelist, and Bettie Nothemba Mgxaji, a business woman. When he was young, Feni's family relocated to the Welcome Estate in Cape Town. His family were Xhosa people.[2]


Feni's work often tied to the period of Apartheid in South Africa.[3] He lived in self-imposed exile from 1968 to 1991 based between London, Los Angeles and New York.[4][5]

He moved to the United States in 1978. He was an artist in residence at the Institute of African Humanities in Los Angeles, at the University of California.[6][7]


In 2010, a documentary called Zwelidumile was released. It was created by South African filmmaker Ramadan Suleman.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Feni's first name, Zwelidumile, means "a person known all over the country."[9]

Feni has a daughter named Marriam Diale.[10]


Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 1965: Transvaal Academy, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1966: Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa
  • 1966: Gallery 101, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1966: Johannesburg Civic Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1966: Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria, South Africa
  • 1966: Republic Festival Exhibition, Pretoria, South Africa
  • 1966: SA Breweries Art Prize Exhibition, toured South Africa
  • 1966: Trans-Natal, Natal Society for Arts, Durban, South Africa
  • 1967: Gallery 101, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1967: Transvaal Academy, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1968: Sketches from a Private Collection, Goodman Gallery
  • 1969: Grosvenor Gallery, London, United Kingdom
  • 1970: Exhibition from the Collection of Desmond Fisher, Goodman Gallery
  • 1970: The 51 Club Winter Art Exhibition, Goodman Gallery
  • 1975: South African Sculpture, Goodman Gallery
  • 1981: Black Art Today, Jabulani Standard Bank, Soweto
  • 1988: La Galleria, New York, NY
  • 1989: Portrait of Nelson Mandela for the Pathfinder Mural, New York, NY
  • 1990: Township Art from South Africa, Applecrest, New York, NY
  • 1991: Standard Bank National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa
  • 2010: Art on Paper, MOMO Art Gallery, South Africa

Group exhibitions[edit]

  • 1966: Artists of Fame and Promise, Adler Fielding Galleries, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1967: São Paulo Art Biennial, Brazil
  • 1967: Sculpture South Africa, 1900: 1967, Adler Fielding Galleries, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1969: Contemporary African Art, Camden Arts Centre, London, United Kingdom
  • 1971: Gallery 101, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1972: Gallery 101, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1975: African Art from South Africa, Gallery 21, London, United Kingdom
  • 1977: Contemporary African Art in South Africa, Rand Afrikaans University, Pretoria Art Museum, University of Orange Free State, William Hamphrey Art Gallery (University of Fort Hare)
  • 1977: SANG (Cape Town Festival), Gallery 21, South Africa
  • 1982: Art towards Social Development: an Exhibition of South African Art, National Museum and Art Gallery, Gaborone, Botswana
  • 1983: United Nations Exhibition, Commemoration of Namibia Freedom Day, New York, NY
  • 1987: Unlock Apartheid's Jails, conference on children under apartheid, with Bill Cosby and the American Committee of Africa, Hyatt Hotel, New York, NY
  • 1988: Uhuru: an Exhibition of African American Art against Apartheid, City without Wall Gallery, Newark, NJ
  • 1988: Voices from Exile (Seven South African Artists), Washington, DC; Los Angeles, CA; Houston, TX; Philadelphia, PA
  • 2010: MOMO Art Gallery, South Africa


Selected works and publications[edit]

  • Feni, Dumile, and Bruce Smith. Dumile: Artist in Exile, South Africa: Bruce Smith in association with Art on Paper, 2004. ISBN 978-0-620-32860-9 OCLC 57398581


  1. ^ "Dumile Feni". South African History Online. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  2. ^ Reuss, Sophia (29 September 2015). "Dumile Feni Biography". South African History Online. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  3. ^ Jason, Stefanie (12 September 2014). "Dumile Feni's exhibition a timely take on being black". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  4. ^ Nettleton, Anitra (2011). "Writing Artists into History: Dumile Feni and the South African Canon". African Arts. 44 (1): 8–25. doi:10.1162/afar.2011.44.1.8. JSTOR 41330703.
  5. ^ "Bonhams : Dumile Feni-Mhlaba (Zwelidumile Mxgazi) (South African, 1942–1991) 'The Prisoner' 148cm (58 1/4in) high". www.bonhams.com. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  6. ^ Carew, Douglas (26 January 2002). "Artists Luthili masks brought home after 33 years in exile". Weekend Argus. Archived from the original on 26 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017 – via http://www.sahistory.org.za/.
  7. ^ Williamson, Sue (2011). South African art now. Collins Design. p. 42. ISBN 9780061343513.
  8. ^ Zvomuya, Percy (16 September 2011). "Known only by his absence". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  9. ^ Feni, Dumile; Dube, Prince Mbusi (2006). Dumile Feni Retrospective: Johannesburg Art Gallery (PDF). Johannesburg: Johannesburg Art Gallery. ISBN 978-1-868-14442-6. OCLC 82364701. Retrieved 8 February 2016. Catalog of a retrospective exhibition held at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Jan. 31-Apr. 10, 2005, the Oliewenhuis Art Museum, May 17–June 17, 2005, and the South African National Gallery, Aug. 13–Nov. 4, 2005[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Zwelidumile". Africalia Belgium. 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Dumile Feni (1939 - 1991): The Order of Ikhamanga in Gold". The Presidency: Republic of South Africa. 2 December 2003. Archived from the original on 4 April 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2016. Awarded to Dumile Feni (1939 -1991) for Exceptional achievement in the field of arts and contribution to the struggle against apartheid

External links[edit]

https://www.art-archives-southafrica.ch/DUMILE.htm http://www.pelmama.org/DUMILE.htm