The contemporary art space in South Africa is bursting with talent, and I personally believe that there needs to be particular emphasis on engaging with the works of art graduates stepping into the commercial space of art, especially under the strenuous conditions ushered in by the pandemic. Yonela Doda is one such artist, fresh out of Ruth Prowse School of Art in Cape Town, who relays a confronting and compelling sense of juxtaposition in her work. Deeply moved by themes surrounding trauma and the implications of inhabiting a physical body, Yonela states, “The theme(s) that I aim to explore in my work is the Catharsis theory. I still feel like there’s so much to explore within [it] and it’s always going to be a constant search as I relate it so much to the deep connection that I have with the physical and emotional aspect of my life which changes as I change and grow.” This connection to the context of her work is palpable as an investigation of aiming to heal wounds; literally, perhaps, but also theoretically.
Since my high school days I have always been so fascinated with stitching, and looking back it was always related to fixing/replacing things. When I [arrived] at art school, I was really interested in body politics, which is how I got introduced to the Catharsis theory — leading me to my interest in the materiality of the body. So, I would say this connection comes from my obsession of always wanting to fix things or people; which is unrealistic but cathartically expressed in my work.
Fragmented Bodies III; 2020.
The theme of stitching runs intimately through these works; creating a symbiosis between thread and canvas, merging two opposing mediums into depictions of the body. Grotesque in some aspects such as with the intestinal image, yet incredibly beautiful too in its commentary on femme forms as wholly powerful especially concerning tenderness. As is the nature of our generation, a multiplicity of talents and expressions of self are front and centre of our approach. This is confirmed by Yonela in relaying her future plans;
Going forward as an independent artist right now — at this moment — my main focus is producing more work and growing my portfolio. I feel [that] once I know I’m tired of looking at what I have already produced, I need to start producing new work. I am also shifting some of [the] focus on my interest in fabric design, which stems from my love for fashion and individuality, curating [is also something I want to focus on for future plans] as well as growing my business/brand.
Seeing Yonela’s use of texture, colour and uniformed stitching, I look forward to witnessing her foray into fashion; as I think an artist’s eye in elevating sartorial consciousness is part of what is needed to lift us out from the hysteria of fast, disposable fashion. Continuing to create, no matter what, is the salve for the future — it will breathe life back into our bodies through a cathartic commitment to expression.
Your favourite part; 2020.
Fragmented bodies IV; 2020.
Parasite III (the); 2020.