During the course of his career, artist Nicholas Hlobo has developed a distinctive body of work stitching and weaving together disparate materials such as ribbon, rubber, gauze and leather to create seductively tactile sculptures and drawings. His works are richly layered, anchored in references to Xhosa culture and the experience of life in post-apartheid South Africa, while reflecting upon themes of language and communication as well as gender and sexuality.
The stitches in Itulo are denser and more chaotic, emanating from a large piece of black rubber that has been integrated into the center of the work. Piercing the surface of the paper, the individual stitches cross and tangle at points but remain connected to the central body, which looks like the empty skin of a creature that has departed. Itulo is a long wooden needle used when thatching a house. Here Itulo reminds us of the needle used to make the stitches in the paper, but it is also meant as a metaphor for the act of lovemaking.
From Kerryn Greenberg, “Nicholas Hlobo,” in Wild is the Wind (exhibition catalog). Savannah College of Art and Design, 2010.