Working predominantly, on the mediums of photography, film, and text – Tsoku Maela uses his visual mediums not only to document the present but also as a way to look into the future by revisualizing African narratives, culture, and aesthetics often as part of surreal and abstract visual worlds.
At the age of 17, he enrolled at the University of Cape Town where he pursued his interest in Chemistry and Biochemistry but by the age of 20, he felt disillusioned by the commercialisation of medication and research.
He dropped out of university to pursue his interest in writing and directing at a film school, eventually working in the advertising industry as a copywriter and a writer for live television.
This earned him the Standard Bank Rising Star Award in Media & Marketing for his contribution to the medium in 2016.
His venture into photography began in late 2014, after he met a geriatric too old to exist, one-foot-and-a-toe in the grave, who regaled him with the story of his life in exile for disobeying the call of duty during wartime, while sharing a ward at the Christiaan Barnard hospital.
“Why did you betray your own country to come here? To this country”, he asked. “Because I wanted to use my hands to build and not to destroy”, the old man replied while he gestured to the many buildings outside and around them that he had designed and helped to build as an architect.
On the day of his discharge, too broke to make a decent film, too reclusive to convince anyone to fund him, Maela went home and blew the dust off an old camera he had and decided that he would turn all the stories he had into still images with no particular goal in mind but to make them.
Maela says on his website: “An archivist of a future African past in the present time, I wish not only to preserve but to rewrite the collective memory of blackness across the spectrum of her muddied hues in a language so vivid and worthy of our rebellion. To become, we re-imagine what is and what is not. The edge we once knew to be fear became a springboard for us to leap into the unknown, only so our dreams could learn to fly. Therefore the Afrofuturist dreams in Surrealism.”
His work has been featured on CNN: African Voices, Hyperallergic, VICE, GUP Magazine and Contemporary Art Curator Magazine. His work has been showcased in South Africa, Lagos, Zurich and at Art Basel’s Pulse Miami Beach in the U.S.A. Academically, his work has also been used in student exhibitions in the United Kingdom to raise awareness around mental health.
His artworks can also be found in the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, archived as part of their Transition publication.
His works are available at Christopher Moller Gallery.
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