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Visual Jamming

Stompie Selibe
Daniel Stompie Selibe | 1974 | Badimo | 2017 | Mixed Media on Canvas | 163x310cm

As both a visual artist and musician, Daniel ‘Stompie’ Selibe uses improvisation, experimentation and discovery. In anticipation of his upcoming exhibition, Sound of Silence, at Candice Berman gallery, Creative Feel spoke to the artist about his work and his sources of inspiration.

Stompie Selibe’s artworks are sonorous, using mark-making and melodies in ‘an intuitive process of experimentation and discovery, similar to jamming musically,’ a method he refers to as ‘visual jamming’. With paint, spray paint and charcoal he explores the world around him; ‘the layers, complexities, textures, histories and often hidden processes of life.’ Newspapers, sheet music and, more recently, fabric, also make their way into his mix, ‘along with “overwriting” with scribblings, drips, softly delicate line drawings and wildly expressive brush marks.’ Selibe has been working on his upcoming exhibition at Candice Berman ‘for over a year now. The work is rooted in exploring how indigenous methods and styles, be it music, images cultural gatherings, identities or beliefs can be tools for connection, healing and development in the world of today, they give us new possibilities.’ In these works, he uses ‘space as a means of showing and creating the connections of rhythms and space, a way to show and introduce new ways to improvise using mark making and melodies, new ways of creating our lives together.’

Stompie Selibe Stompie Selibe


In 2015, Selibe was working on artworks centred on the metaphor of ‘the shadow and the scream’. Is this still relevant in his current works? ‘This metaphor of the shadow, the darkness that trails us, is about how contorted we become, we are broken chords, within a broken city which is made up of many different rhythms. The work is still relevant to me as we are living in the shadow of the magnificence of the music we all make, the rhythms and chords, our aspirations and dreams! The broken shadow is a look at how our lifestyle of today impacts us, our experiences of living in the shadow of journeys, desires and aspirations for a better way of living together.’

Jazz plays an important role in both his life and in his artistic output. In his creation of both music and visual art, Selibe uses ‘a similar style of improvisation as a method of creation, of taking what is around me, creating new connections and associations, trying to travel to places of memory and history, as well as new places still to be created. South African Indigenous Jazz creates a music that heals,’ he says. ‘Following in the tradition of religious and spiritual music, the indigenous music of SA sound helps people connect to parts of themselves and others that are often not reached in this day and age. Music enables us to experience things in ways that go beyond the intellect and words, it can bring us together, with ourselves and with others, with our histories and most importantly with our creative and spontaneous ability to create anew each day, it frees our imagination and expresses the magic of being human.


Working with sounds that evoke memory, that evoke forces and energies greater than ourselves jazz sound engages people in a different and spontaneous kind of experience, one that refreshes, invigorates and connects with the magic and sacredness that both surrounds us and of which we are an integral creative part.

The freeing of this magic invokes the power to alter and enhance lives and to create our wholeness.’ Selibe plays a number of instruments; he lists the cajón drum; djembe; bamboo sax and mbira, ‘and anything that has an interesting sound’. In addition to his artistic talents, Selibe is also a qualified art counsellor. ‘Working with art and music as tools for healing is as much a part of my artistic life as making a painting or making music is. Working as an arts counsellor is another way of using the tools of creativity and art to express the complexity, depth and mystery of being human. I think as an artist I have the opportunity and tools, if not the responsibility, to address, explore and question what it means to be human, today, to inquire about how and what we see, to look more deeply and uncover what is beneath so many layers of our social conditioning, which can blind us or distort what we see. I am an artist of post-apartheid South Africa, of a newly democratic South Africa, of a struggling multi-racial, multi-cultural-multi-class South Africa. So much of what we see and how we see is still shaped by apartheid, it will take many decades for that to change. I am an African artist wanting to explore and show new ways of seeing African lives and our experiences. Too often in the art world, we do not see images of ourselves nor are the images we see of ourselves created by ourselves, for ourselves nor are they about ourselves. We are many voices, many rhythms, many colours, dimensions and textures, we are complex, complicated, often hidden or distorted at the same time as we are, along with others, builders of a new country that needs new ways for all of us to live, grow and dream together. I hope that my art can be an improvisational invitation to explore the timeless questions of how we must be, see, listen, respond, interact, build community, heal, live, grow and create our future, together.’

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