Dumile Book Project



from the

Johannesburg Art Gallery

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This site, designed, managed and operated by The Haenggi Foundation Inc., serves to assist me in my research on the life and work of DUMILE FENI.  My intent is to encourage people who knew DUMILE, and collectors who have his work, to contact me directly.  My e-mail address is

 DUMILE "Horses", 1967 - charcoal on paper - 247x102 cm - Priv. Coll. London   DUMILE "Tree of Life", undated - charcoal on paper - 185x102 cm - Coll. Ralo Family   DUMILE "Girl and boy", undated - charcoal on paper - 233x102 cm - Priv. Coll., London

The DUMILE BOOK PROJECT was conceived during my research for the DUMILE FENI RETROSPECTIVE.  Dumile's extraordinary talent has been overlooked despite his contribution to art in the twentieth century and his years of active work produced in South Africa, England and the United States of America.  The innovative artistic evolution of Dumile serves as testimony to his spiritual consciousness, creative energy and skill.

 DUMILE "The people when we respect - to my Boy", 1968 - pen on paper - 36x38 cm (Coll. Johannesburg Art Gallery)   DUMILE "Window", undated - charcoal and chalk on paper - 208x102 cm - Priv. Coll.   DUMILE "Figure study with bowl", 1964 - watercolour and charcoal - 54x36.5 cm (Priv. Coll, Cape Town)

This project encompasses an effort to place DUMILE and his work in historical perspective.  The idea for this project was spearheaded at a critical moment when South Africa was celebrating ten years of democracy, for which Dumile fought but which he never enjoyed.  Correspondingly, the Johannesburg Art Gallery held a comprehensive retrospective of Dumile's work, for which I served as curator.  Given the amount of new information that surfaced, and the advice of experts in the field, a critical decision to publish this book independent of the exhibition was eventually established.  Initially, the Gallery supported the initiative of a catalogue, later annulled this idea, and then finally returned to the idea to produce a catalogue.  The Gallery had argued that the catalogue would be enough to accompany the exhibition.

DUMILE exhibition view - Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein

The Johannesburg Art Gallery prides itself for the role it has played in organizing the first comprehensive exhibition honouring Dumile's contribution to the art world.  Indeed putting together an exhibition that featured the calibre of Dumile's work was a complex task that required intensive international cooperation on different levels.  Credit for the exhibition concept, content and organization was due to the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Dumile Feni Foundation, The Haenggi Foundation Inc., Mr. Moeletsi Mbeki, Justice Albie Sachs, Omar Badsha, Marriam Diale and Dumile’s sisters, Kuli Mgxaji and Nondumiso Mgxaji.

 DUMILE "Two ladies with children in arms", 1966 - conté - meas. n/a - Priv. coll.   DUMILE "Woman and chimpanzee", undated - watercolour and crayon - 61x46 cm (Priv. Coll., Cape Town)   DUMILE "Penny whistler", 1969 - pen & ink - 31.2x18.7 cm - Coll. Constitutional Court of SA, Johannesburg, acq. 2003

The idea of a book separate from a catalogue was always my intent. Placing Dumile in historical perspective should help us to forge a broader international coalition to bring disparate people together in common determination to contribute to a more just and humane society. 

 DUMILE "Musician playing bass, with onlooker", 1978 - double-sided pen&ink + wash - 40x49 cm (Constitutional Court Art Coll., Johannesburg)   DUMILE "Violinist", 1978 - pen&ink + wash - 43x27 cm (Constitutional Court Art Coll., Johannesburg)   DUMILE "Bass player", 1978 - pen & ink and pencil - 39x49 cm - Constitutional Court of SA Art Coll., Johannesburg

Before leaving South Africa for exile in 1968, Dumile already was a successful artist.  My intent is not for my book to provide a biographical account about Dumile, but to serve as a vehicle that contributes to a body of knowledge relative to the sojourn of a South African artist.  This book is central to showing how Dumile's artistic development, among other experience, can be read as social commentary about what was happening in the South African art world at a particular moment in time and place. Dumile's life and work reveal a struggle for freedom and humanity. He sought an ideal world where people will be free from ill behaviour that aids in discontent.

DUMILE "Untitled" (After the verdict), 1974 - wash + pen&ink - 46x39 cm - Priv. coll.   DUMILE "Head" , 1971 - bronze (6 cast), 52cm H, not all casts were numbered or signed, cast by Fiorini, London between 1972 and 1975   DUMILE "The flower", 1967 - pen&ink and pastel - 15x20 cm (Priv. coll.)

Prince Dube, Johannesburg, 25th November, 2005

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page last updated 12th January, 2007

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