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Billy Makhubela

Billy Makhubela's career started on the roadside selling wire bicycles.  He could never have known that the bikes would become a South African phenomenon...or that his career would take him to an exhibition at the Constitutional Court as a tribute to Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday. Mandela and Graca visited the show and loved the works, even requesting Billy to meet Mandela’s personally for a private introduction to the artist.

Billy’s designed the beaded works for the ‘Mandela’ exhibition thereafter his wife Jane and daughter Yvonne completed the beading.

Born to humble parents in Duiwelskloof in what is now called Limpopo Province Billy’s life changed course during the Apartheid era when he walked into the Natalie Knight Gallery in Hyde Park. He had heard somewhere that Knight exhibited Ndebele beadwork (she had co-authored a book entitled Ndebele Images in 1983) and he asked if she was interested in collecting Shangaan beadwork. She was - and thus a life long partnership with Knight was born, wherein she acting as his agent and mentor, banker, and psychologist, helping the family in many ways.  Natalie bought the beaded ncekas which his three wives and seven daughters made on which they recorded the history of South Africa, encouraging and assuring them of their extraordinary talent.

Jane Makhubele received a merit award on the FNB Craft Exhibition for her interpretation of traditional Shangaan designs into modern abstract art works

Her beaded Nceka works are brightly coloured in red, black and white and these decorative works hang in the foyers of hotels and corporate offices.

Most noteworthy are the Nceka’s depicting Nelson Mandela’s time on Robben Island to the day when he cast his first vote as President of the country. Many of the works were shown at his exhibition at JHB Art Gallery in May 2007, and published in the book Dungamanzi/Stirring Waters which documented the art and culture of the Tsonga Shangaan for the first time.

Where does one go after holding an exhibition for and meeting the worlds most Revered human at a "command performance" at the Mandela Foundation.?

"Well, I hope I will be able through my work to depict the serious problems S Africa has encountered over the last 8 years...and hopefully, the changes that I pray will take place under President Motlanthe” smiles Billy.


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