We spoke to a young man who has combined his love for the arts, with his love for the spiritual world. He educates us on how the two can coexist. Cassius Khumalo is a real example of being your biggest cheerleader.
BD: Please tell us about your upbringing
CK: I was born in 1990, 10 November in Alexander Township. I have always been very spiritual, curious about life as well as where I fit in the world and my spiritual connection.
BD: Spiritual connections are a great part of many people’s lives. What kind of household did you grow up in?
CK: I grew up in happy and fun home that was full of love and care. My grandmother, Annie Khumalo made sure that I didn’t want for anything, she taught me how to love.
CK: I loved being at school and observing the structures of the building and trees. I remember coming home late from school very muddy and dirty because I had been exploring the school grounds; It was a big building that had a lot of stairs I had never seen such a building. It was overwhelming and interesting at the same time. I started making sketches of cartoon charters such as Pokemon and Power rangers during my classes and that’s when my love for drawing and art began. My friends and I would have drawing competitions where the best drawing would be recognised as the best among peers and honestly that’s all the recognition I needed and desired as a boy.
BD: What was your family’s reaction when you told them what you wanted to be?
CK: My parents were disappointed, they wanted me to become a lawyer or doctor. Loving art and living in a township was difficult for me as the art world is not really something that is accessible when living In Alex and so my parents didn’t know how to handle my passion and interest for art.
BD: As a young man, it couldn’t have been easy knowing or seeing disappointment in your parents’ eyes. We admire you for following your heart anyway. What kind of an artist are you?
CK: I am an artist whose work is spiritual. My artworks aim to teach Africans how to love themselves, be proud of who they are, to own who they are and to not be so quick to conform to Western ideologies. I aim to embrace my heritage through my work which is why it references a spiritual awakening within an individual’s socio constructed identity because I believe that my purpose is to guide and heal people through my works.
BD: Elaborate on what spirituality is to you and why it is so important to you and your work.
CK: Spiritualism is a big part of my life as I come from a family that believes in ancestors and communicating with our ancestors. That has influenced my artwork tremendously. Ancestors maintain a spiritual connection with me; they show me things to come and that is in turn what is portrayed in my works.
BD: What is the connection between the arts and the spiritual world, if any?
CK: I believe that God can be seen through the process of making or producing art. Every individual, every nation, every civilization, every religion defines itself with its spiritual magnanimity and I believe that art allows for that to happen as it allows you to escape the confines of your mind.
BD: What are you trying to communicate with your drawings?
CK: My art investigates the spiritual realm, I interpret the mystical spiritual world which is translated into charcoal drawings. I believe that true leaders are led by spirit and that it is my task to enlighten people through my work.
BD: What is the arts industry like for a young black man like yourself?
CK: It has been very frustrating being a young black artist because my family doesn’t support my art, they don’t understand that it is what I need to do to survive and to breathe. Therefore, I feel like it is that much more difficult for me to face the world without the support from home. Trying to build a sustainable career as a black artist is extremely hard as people don’t believe in your artwork till one finds gallery representation.
CK: Yes but I have to say that art chose me I didn’t choose it; it found me as if it had always been my destiny. I make artworks as a way of saying thank you to God for the amazing creation and that is why my works have been so spiritual; the connection to God and love.
BD: So one would say art is your calling. Please share some challenges have you faced in your industry and career?
CK: Rejection, being told you’re a young artist after having spent so much time on my craft. At some point galleries have required me to have a fine arts degree and certain doors have been closed to me because of that.
BD: Rejection cannot be easy to overcome. How do you deal with criticism?
CK: Criticism about my work can only strengthen me and push me to be a better artist.
BD: What is the most rewarding part of being an artist?
CK: Being able to sell an artwork and making people happy through my work.
BD: Where to from here?
CK: I enjoy the fact that I have Art Eye Gallery fully behind me and I am working towards having a solo exhibition, hopefully in the near future.
BD: Thank you for your time Cassius. We wish you nothing but the best for your future and when you do get that solo exhibition, please don’t forget to invite us!