Lucky Madlo Sibiya was born in 1942 in Vryheid, KwaZulu-Natal and was known to be one of South Africa’s most renowned painters, printmakers and sculptors. The Umabatha series was part of the Pelmama Permanent Art Collection, and was donated to Oliewenhuis Art Museum by the Haenggi Foundation in 2006.
Although Sibiya received some guidance from acclaimed South African artists such as Cecil Skotness and Bill Ainslie, he was mainly a self taught artist with no formal training.
His passion for art developed when he was a child, as he watched his father, who was a Sangoma, performing rituals with bones and stones on the ground. The shapes and patterns of the stones and bones fascinated him, more than the ritualistic performance. These traditional images became a visible, prominent element in his art in later years. Sibiya always expressed his love for rocks, stones and the earth. He particularly found the colours – the reds and browns of the rocks and earth – interesting and was also intrigued by their texture.
In the late 1970s Sibiya became fascinated by Welcome Msomi’s version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Umabatha, which had been adapted to 19th century Zulu history, covering the story of King Shaka and King Dingane. This interpretation could be easily misunderstood, as Umabatha is not the Zulu version of Macbeth; it rather portrays historical events based on Shakespeare’s plot.
Sibiya produced 15 colour woodcuts based on the play, using its name. Through the Umabatha series, Sibiya received instant international fame and travelled across the world promoting his work.
1. Umabatha: The Drums
3. Umabatha: The destruction of Mafadu’s kraal