Pitika Ntuli – a New Master for a New Century
By: Jessica Deutsch
Pitika Ntuli has had an illustrious career, with inclusion in prominent private collections worldwide, to international museums and local institutions in South Africa. His chiseling away at rock, wood and stone, both in exile and back in the country of his birth, records the transition of a nation. While Pitika has always been actively involved politically, his art has been a private world, one in which he responds to the spiritual life of his people. It is a place of poetry where pain and suffering are transmuted into faces and forms, where most often there is a hidden self. There is tragedy, but the raw stone, wood or bone left unworked are the blank canvasses embodying hope, waiting for change, believing in the healing and rebirth of his people
Pitika is set to be a master artist of a new 21st century market already gaining momentum in South Africa and Europe under the genre of Contemporary African Art. However what sets him outside and inside this new art making is that he stands singular as an artist of transition. His work has never been one of anger, it is an art of music, of poetry, and also of triumph. He addresses more potently than any of his peers, this moment in time in South Africa and the evolution of its people. It is art that will remain as an indomitable marker of this era.
Pitika’s work and choice of materials draw from the land. Africa’s story is of the soil and of the land, of the movement of peoples across it, and the people who are buried in it. While recording the present, Pitika also makes reference to the ancestors of old, and their ever enduring roles as spiritual guides of the nation.
While a new generation of artists such as Senzo Shabangu, Asanda Kupa, Happy Dhlame and Bongi Bengu speak of the disappointment that change has brought; of the failure of dreams; and of the struggle for a new identity, Pitika digs deeper.
He stands apart from the explorations of 20th century South African Artists whose concentration was the landscape, exotic beauty, variety of peoples, of protest art and recording life under the apartheid regime. His art transcends this, addressing the universal suffering of all mankind, as well as its continuous rebirth and renewal
This is not an angry rebellious art, it is an art that is musical and sings in graceful triumph. From the smooth curves of wood to the ragged shapes of his bone sculptures he offers this generation an art of harmony that unifies and speaks to all peoples. While acknowledging the scarring of the nation, he reminds us of our endurance that is reinforced by an ever vigilant ancient spirit.