Dada Khanyisa

Daily life, made beautiful

Dada Khanyisa (they/them) was born in 1991 in Umzimkhulu, South Africa. They were raised in Johannesburg and currently work and live in Cape Town.

Career

Khanyisa is an animator – a skill seen in their intricate figures. In 2016, she studied Digital and Traditional Animation at the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa.

Commissions

In 2017, Khanyisa was given the challenge to make a mural at the museum Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. She was asked to bring a modern feel to the historic place – and the resulting 35 metre mural certainly fit the bill.

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Collaborations with Dada Khanyisa

Avant Arte and Dada Khanyisa have one upcoming collaboration.

Practice overview

Dada Khanyisa is fascinated by the bits of life that are often thought of as boring. They create vibrant 3D portraits that show figures in intimate settings – interacting or arguing, alone and together. Likewise, Khanyisa makes their art out of materials we use on a daily basis. Glass, plastic, fabric and wood are all regular features. The artist then layers them together using collage. They describe their process as ‘nahanjani’. In Zulu, this means ‘by whatever means’. “The work I produce is about the Black experience”, they say – a form of social commentary on day-to-day experience.

Khanyisa takes inspiration from memory and the world around them. They mix their personal life with nods to pop culture, like sneakers and football shirts. They see this as a way to “juggle personal and collective memory” – showing that our understanding of society is not individual, but shared. By drawing on their memory, Khanyisa creates a rich tapestry of life and culture today.

“I enjoy focusing on what people neglect or take for granted – their daily tasks and what was part of their growing experience.”Dada Khinyisa