Kiveshan Thumbiran – South African Indian Visual Artist
South Africa is filled with an immense amount of talented individuals, one of them being South African Indian Visual Artist Kiveshan Thumbiran. Kiveshan is based in Lenasia and works at the Department of Visual Art at The University of Johannesburg. He is also a head lecturer for New Media Studies. Similarly, Kiveshan has designed a course within his department as well. The course aims to equip visual art students with skills. Skills in computer literacy as well as a precursor to digital art. Above all, our Crown the Brown team had the privilege of getting to know more about this amazing young man and his passion for visual art! Likewise, here is what Kiveshan shared with us.
How would you describe the subject matters that are explored in your artwork? How is it contextualized and how do you find mediums to use?
“My artwork seeks to explore ideas of ‘’Indianess’’ and its placement or displacement in the contemporary South African landscape. A questioning of whether we belong or not and if not. Why not? As a young man from a minority in a country that is constantly undergoing revolutionary change. The Indian community is always one that was never completely included. So my work seeks even more in terms of asking my fellow countrymen why I do not belong?”
“Using Hindu mythology and iconography as tools for image making in my work. I create imagery that defies the idea that religion in art denotes zealot-like behaviour. Rather to ask the questions above. Using figures, scenes and stories from my religion and culture. I look at ideas of post-apartheid and post democracy South Africa as a dystopian space.
Dystopian in the sense that I don’t belong in it and yet it is the only home I will ever know. Hence my works take imagery, incidents and stories from contemporary South Africa and amalgamates them with imagery from my religion and culture. Hence the name of this body of work, its exhibition called: Kaliyutopia . Combining Kaliyug (The Hindu age of darkness) with dystopia.”
I use Photoshop to create digital prints. These prints are then combined into a single landscape as seen below:
I will contextualize one of the works in the print to give a sense of how the print works. The top centre figure is titled: Honourable Ravan in this print I use the antagonist Ravan from the Ramayana. As a figure commonly associated with political dystopia. Political dystopia is a state where the government runs its society in a tyrannical way. From dictators to controlling government groups which threatens and controls the masses, they are the antagonist of this type of dystopia.
Ravan was a great king who acquired many powers through years of penance. Similarly, making the ultimate sacrifice of his own head to please the Gods. This very power would bring his downfall as it gave way to pride and arrogance within him. He would commit the sin of abducting a mans wife, which led to the destruction of his clan and kingdom.
I find many parallels between Ravan and the contemporary South African government. For example: Our government too acquired power through years of pain and sacrifice only to now become corrupt and greedy. Ravan the government are a mass of heads glued together by greed and lust for power.
One of the technical aspects of my work is that I am the model in all of my digital prints. This is because I am the person who is both the protagonist and antagonist in all of these dystopias. In Honourable Ravan for example I am all of his heads. This is a questioning of my own place in the political dystopia. While it is easy to imagine ourselves as heroes of the story, I would like to question that if were in the governments shoes and come from a previously disadvantaged past, would I not too take what I can while the getting is good?
What are your thought processes regarding your artwork?
This is the basis of my work, I critically engage with the South African landscape all the while questioning it and myself. My thought process follows this pattern then:
- Thinking of a South African incident the applies to me
- Looking for Hindu imagery that can be used to contextualize these ideas in a way that has my own voice
- Working in Adobe Photoshop to create said imagery
- Creating other content which can inform viewers who are familiar with my culture and religion
One of the final things I would like to touch on is the fact that the majority of South Africa is unaware of our religions and cultures within the Indian paradigm. This is one of the core goals behind my work, to inform the masses of Indian culture being treated with the same respect as every other culture in our beautiful country.
I created a digital database. A website which can be accessed by scanning the QR codes on my Kaliyutopia print or by using this link: www.kaliyutopia.com
Furthermore, the site offers video artworks which reacts to the specific scenes and characters. It offers the viewer a concept poster which explains the scene of character to those not familiar with Hinduism. With creating such art, we can begin to have discourses on cultural appropriation. Our holy events being turned into colour fun runs or colour parties. Also, the simple misuse of Karma by people who believe it will aide them in their personal vendettas. It will bring us a step closer to answering the question of why we do not fully belong and if we ever will.
Kiveshan looks at ideas of democracy and post-apartheid South Africa. He embraces his culture and combines it with visual arts and South Africa as a dystopian space. We love talent that relates to use and showcases power. Kaliyutopia surely has brought many Indians to relate to the depiction of being a minority in South Africa and breaking barriers. Be sure to follow Kiveshan on instagram to follow his artwork and so much more!
– Dushant Naidu