Welcome Koboka (1941 – 1997)
Mandla Welcome Koboka was born in Johannesburg in 1941, where he also died in 1997. Never achieving great commercial success, Koboka is a little known painter whose work is rarely seen but deserves recognition as one of the pioneering modernists in South African post-war abstraction.
Although Koboka’s paintings can broadly be categorised as part of the painting genre documenting daily life in the city, its townships or the countryside, he managed to develop an individual style and painterly language of his own.
Another exponent of the Polly Street Art Centre, where he attended classes during the 1950’s, he was a friend and colleague of the much more successful Ephraim Ngatane, whose stylistic influence is most noticeable in his work. Other prominent proponents of this genre were Durant Sihlali, David Mogano and Louis Maqhubela, who all managed to establish their own signature styles, prior to the theme becoming a generic subject for so-called township art.
Koboka’s work shows a remarkable stylistic consistency during his artistic career of approximately 40 years. Its most recognisable feature is his style of abstraction, achieved by the simplification of his subject matter. In contrast to Ngatane’s style with its fragmented shapes, Koboka developed a palette knife technique which allowed him his trademark surface treatment, resulting in a gritty, graphic feel whilst giving his figures a weighted monumentality.
Miles, Elza. Polly Street: The Story of an Art Centre. Johannesburg, 2004, pp. 95, 126, 130
© Johans Borman Fine Art