Philiswa Lila is a visual artist, curator and scholar fascinated by the socially relevant and timely issues of authorship and agency. Lila holds an Honours in Curatorship from the University of Cape Town and a Diploma in Fine and Applied Arts from the Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa.

Themes and techniques

Lila works across disciplines like painting, installation and performance. She is interested in memory histories and theories of personal identities. Her materials of choice include animal skin (sheep, goat and cow), beading, wood, paper, canvas and video. Many of Lila’s techniques are linked to forms that will fit bodies. Lila is also influenced by the nuances of language, meaning and experiences of individualism. Some of her ongoing projects explore individual experiences as recognisable or familiar narratives to collective frameworks of culture – mainly in isiXhosa but also aware of the interconnectedness of cultures in South Africa.

Exhibitions, Awards

Lila became the 2018 recipient of the prestigious Gerald Sekoto Award, which included a residency at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris. The artworks produced in Paris are in her debut solo exhibition entitled Skin, Bone, Fire: The First Album. In 2020, the ABSA Gallery was the first host of this exhibition, which is currently touring to various venues in South Africa in association with Alliance Française. An online tour is available here.

Her many achievements include residency programs at the Bag Factory Studios in Johannesburg and Greatmore Studios in Cape Town. Selected group exhibitions and collections: University of South African Acquisitions, Joburg Art Fair Dialogue with Masters, Pretoria Art Museum Neo Emergence, Review Exhibition for Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, Sculpt X, Speculative Enquiry 1, to mention a few. Through her representation with the Melrose Gallery, Dr. Esther Mahlangu selected Lila as an ‘artist to watch’ for the 2019 SEED auction.

Artwork from the artist in our collection

Keep Out of Reach of Children II

Ku Kwam Apha (2020-2023)

Ku Kwam (2020-2023)

Iqhiya emnyama series: Zandisile (2020-2023)

Keep Out of Reach of Children

Curtain (2020-2023)

Vulva, in all her glory! 2 (2020-2023)

Ilokhwe Yekresmesi: Ndiyamensa Mama (2020-2023)

Skin, Bone, Fire - the First Album

Ntombentle (2014)

Portraits II (2019)

1981 (2020)

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