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Katlego Tlabela

Katlego Tlabela


While Tlabela's formative development unfolded in Cape Town, his early memories of artistic creation involved sketching cities and roads in the sand alongside his cousins while visiting their grandparents in rural Limpopo. His path towards becoming an artist crystallised during high school, marked by the entrepreneurial spirit of spray-painting customised graffiti tags on his peers’ belongings for additional income.

Tlabela studied printmaking at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art, but subsequently shifted to painting. His multi-panelled tableaux are self-referential, depicting Black protagonists – often himself – in highly stylised domestic or architectural spaces that offer a lens into the imagined lives of the Black elite. Incorporating collage, his building of these worlds is decidedly postmodern, citing well-known works by South African artists, iconic furniture and design objects, popular sneaker brands, cut-out figures from magazines and reappropriated texts.

In Tlabela’s universe, prosperity and self-determination are conjured by highly symbolic signifiers – including notable paintings by Black artists such as Kerry James Marshall and novels by the likes of Candice Carty-Williams and Zadie Smith. He delves into desire, aspiration and belonging, as filtered through the lens of the generation who inherited the promises of liberation and Black economic freedom in the post-democracy. “I am looking at various ways to depict wealth, be it property, valued commodities such as art by Black artists, a solid Black family structure, and knowledge distribution,” he has said. 

Tlabela has held two solo exhibitions: NEGRO SUNSHINE (2017) at North West University Gallery in Potchefstroom, South Africa, and Feels Like Summer (2023) at Wilde Gallery in Geneva, Switzerland. His work was selected for Ganda the Rhino Project in Brazil, Poland and Portugal (2014-2015), and When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting (2023) at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. He has participated in fairs such as Frieze London, FIAC, 1-54 London and New York, Liste Art Fair Basel and RMB Latitudes, and in group shows in Lagos, London and New York. He was an artist-in-residence at Southern Guild’s GUILD Residency in Cape Town in 2022 and presented his work through the gallery at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair and Untitled Art in Miami, both in 2023.

The Decision Makers II - The Collector

The Decision Makers II - The Collector


Acrylics, ink and collage on canvas

61 x 61 cm



Present: Lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa

2017: BAFA Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, South Africa

1993: Born in Tshwane, South Africa


  • 2023: Katlego Tlabela: Feels Like Summer, Wilde, Geneva, Switzerland

  • 2017: NEGRO SUNSHINE, North West University Gallery, Potchefstroom, South Africa



  • BLACK VOICES: Friend of My Mind, Ross-Sutton Gallery, New York, USA


  • The Medium is the Message, Unit London, London, UK

  • Liminality in Infinite Space, African Artists Foundation, Lagos, Nigeria

  • Habit, BKhz, (online), Johannesburg, South Africa


  • Keep Languages Alive, D54, Johannesburg, South Africa

  • Mixed Messages, BKhz, Johannesburg, South Africa

  • Winter Salon, Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, Johannesburg, South Africa


  • PROOF, SMAC Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

  • In to View, EBONY/CURATED, Cape Town, South Africa


  • From the Horse’s Mouth, EBONY/CURATED, Cape Town, South Africa

  • Disclosure, SMAC Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

  • 100 Years: University of Fort Hare Print Exchange, Steve Biko Center and De Beers Art Gallery, Eastern Cape, South Africa


  • Unpacking, Eclectica Contemporary Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

  • Creative Destruction, Eclectica Contemporary Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

  • Thami Mnyele Fine Art Awards Exhibition, Coen Scholtz Recreation Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa

  • Revisiting the Latent Archive in Sites, AVA Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

  • Nothing Personal, SMAC Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa


  • Rhinos are Coming Art Project, Brazil, Poland, South Africa

  • Return to Sender, Centre for African Studies Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa



  • RMB Latitudes Art Fair, Johannesburg

  • Untitled Art, Miami

  • Investec Cape Town Art Fair


  • Investec Cape Town Art Fair

  • 1-54 London 2021 1-54 New York

  • Liste Art Fair Basel

  • Frieze London


  • Cape Town Art Fair

2016 - 2014

  • Turbine Art Fair, Johannesburg


  • 2022: GUILD Residency, Cape Town, South Africa

  • 2021: Modern Art Projects Artist Residency, South Africa

  • 2020: Komposjaart Residency, South Africa


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