Four of the Most Inspiring African Textile Artists

Four of the Most Inspiring African Textile Artists

Posted in Design

Since the first works of textile art were developed, artists have redefined the boundaries of what can be considered a textile, as well as how a textile can be considered art. Textile-works can take the form of wall art, tapestry, rug, sculpture, and installation, with an aesthetic and practicality that differ from other visual art forms. In response to the medium versatility, textile artists take the time to develop their own signature style, making their artworks unique.

African artists, in particular, have transformed the medium into a communication tool. They are weaving ideas around family, identity, gender stereotypes, and political narratives, which are taking shape through stitching, knotting, braiding, sewing, quilting, and felting. They have chosen textile to express their art to highlight the materials accessibility and usefulness. So, we’ve gathered below a list of talented and visionary artists who will have you rethinking textile art.

Billie Zangewa

Nationality: Malawi
Art Style: Figurative
Technique: Embroidery

Born in 1973 in Malawi, Billie Zangewa lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. She attended Rhodes University, receiving a BFA in graphics and printmaking in 1995. She moved to Johannesburg to work in the fashion and advertising industries before devoting her time wholly to art. Using raw silk fabric and threads, Zangewa hand sews sprightly embroideries who take inspiration from contemporary life scenes. Often the heroin of her figurative compositions, she mixes personal experience with the universal: the bustles of urban megalopolises as well as the actions of ordinary life come alive on the fabric. Everyday life thus becomes a pretext for political reflection on identity, and questions gender stereotypes and racial prejudice.

High Hopes by Billie Zangewa

Cold Shower by Billie Zangewa

Jody Paulsen

Nationality: South Africa
Art Style: Abstract
Technique: Felting, Collage

Jody Paulsen was born in 1987 in Cape Town, South Africa, where he currently lives and works. Following his graduation with a bachelor in Print Media from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2009, he achieved his master’s degree in 2013. Paulsen creates vibrant felt collages, which translate vernacular icons, clichés, and slogans of consumerism into his own understanding of popular culture. Texts and symbols play an important role in the composition of his artworks with visual cues ranging from luxury branding to political motifs. Wave-like patterns merge with narrative scenes that indulge in a vibrant color composition within each work, which evokes a familiarity of repetition. Paulsen is also involved in the fashion industry, collaborating with fashion designers to present numerous collections.

Blondie by Jody Paulsen

Juicy by Jody Paulsen

Michaela Younge

Nationality: South Africa
Art Style: Surrealism
Technique: Felting, Embroidery

Born in 1993 in Cape Town, South Africa, Michaela Younge grew up in an artistic family. She studied printmaking and sculpture at the Michaelis School of Fine Art where she graduated in 2015, receiving distinctions in both her theoretical and practical studies. Younge creates felt artworks that often depict surreal narratives, which reflect the absurdity of human vices and obsessions with an attempt to find meaning. Her compositions explore dreamlike scenes which weave together popular culture, urban legends, and myths. Her use of irony helps highlight a particular context where social dynamics are regularly questioned with a satirical edge.

The lyrical content of the music by Michaela Younge

Maiden voyage to nowhere good by Michaela Younge

Pierre Fouché

Nationality: South Africa
Art Style: Realism
Technique: Lacemaking, Knotting

Pierre Fouché was born in 1977 in Pretoria, South Africa. He completed his master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Stellenbosch in 2006. His work mainly explores themes of portraiture, identity, and queer politics through creations that appear photo-realistic. Inspired by photographs from his collection, Fouché uses various textile-based techniques including macramé, bobbin lace, and drawn thread embroidery to create artworks with a strong sense of quiet introspection and intimacy. Informed by a desire to understand the intricacies of contemporary visual cultures, his aesthetic tends toward the Romantic period in art history. His consistent marriage of iconography with craftsmanship also contributes to this reading.

Judgement of Paris by Pierre Fouche

Judgement of Paris by Pierre Fouche


Posted in Design  |  September 23, 2023