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Eric Lubisi

Eric Magamana Lubisi was born on 11 October 1946 in Highlands, near Eastwood in Pretoria, Transvaal (now Gauteng). He was the only son and had five sisters. At the age of twelve, he and his family relocated to Mamelodi Johannesburg. Transvaal. He completed his matric at Mamelodi High School – art was one of his subjects, which his teacher, Alex Selepe, encouraged. Lubisi started drawing with charcoal. He participated in various art activities at the local youth club. He trained as a teacher at Amanzimtoti, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) in the mid-1960s, but later stopped studying as a result of not having access to art courses.

He acquired a position as a darkroom assistant with the photographer Peter Carr. Included in his job description, was to photograph artworks by well-known artists. The artist Gregoire Boonzaier inspired him.

Lubisi also developed an interest in pottery. He together with John Blem, studied pottery at the former Transvaal College of Education. Lubisi was encouraged by artists Enos Makhubedu and Walter Battiss and he decided to work as a full-time artist in 1968. He was influenced by the work of artists such as Andrew Motjuwadi, Abe Nkabinde and Louis Maqhubela. A feature that became his signature was his symbolic and narrative paintings that were recognisable given its African imagery (symbols and traditions). His art depicted the difficulties of being black under apartheid, as well as the themes of hope for a better society, justice and equality.

In 1976, Lubisi together with Roy Ndinisa launched a studio in Pretoria’s city centre. Their first exhibition was at the home of Dr. Joachim Braun, an art collector, followed by an exhibition at the Kingsley Centre. From 1977 Lubisi collaborated with well-known artists such as Khumalo, Lucky Sibiya, and Lucas Sithole, in various group exhibitions in South Africa. In 1979, Lubisi was one of the first black artists who entered the New Signatures competition at the Association of Arts in Pretoria.

He also held many solo exhibitions, locally and internationally. Several museums and art collections in Germany, Canada, Australia, Brazil and the United States of America, display his artwork. He was the director of The Arts for All Centre and assisted many young black artists in Pretoria throughout the years.

Lubisi was commissioned, later in his life, to do ceramic murals for a shopping centre in Soshanguve and the Transnet offices in Johannesburg. He attained much respect from the art community and was often invited to be a judge at art competitions while also teaching art at his studio. In 2016, the Unisa Art Gallery chose Lubisi, as the first artist to be honoured for a well-earned recognition by black Tshwane Artists from the 1960-1970s.

Eric Magamana Lubisi passed away on 28 September 2020

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