Nicholas Hlobo was born in 1975 in Cape Town, South Africa, and today lives and works in Johannesburg. His work consists principally of sculpture and tactile drawings. Hlobo works on paper or fabric, weaving and stitching with his own hands: in Africa both activities are associated with women. Even his choice of materials makes reference to the gendered division of labour, which Hlobo openly challenges: ribbons and gauzes recall the domestic sphere, while the tyre inner tubes refer to cars and the masculine world. His compositions often evoke phallic forms, bodily fluids, orifices and internal organs, speaking to us in a visceral and explicit way. Both the way his works are made and the meanings associated with his materials are replete with references to Xhosa culture and post-apartheid life, and confront in an explicit way themes linked to identity, sexuality and the South African cultural system. The titles of Hlobo’s works are in Xhosa language, and never translated. The artist wants viewers to draw their own conclusions by looking at the works rather than focusing on their history and meaning.
Exhibitions dedicated to Hlobo’s work have been held at Locust Project, Miami (2013), National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo (2011), Tate Modern, London (2008) and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2008). His work was shown at Palazzo Grassi in the exhibition ‘The World Belongs to You’ (2011-12).