Published information on Vincent Kubeka is limited and new information is hard to access since his violent death in 1986. In their book Rorke’s Drift: Empowering Prints, Elizabeth Rankin and Philippa Hobbs relied on information provided by his friend Dumisani Mabaso as follows:
[He] remembers that students at Rorke’s Drift found Kubeka an inspiring class mate, but they were only at the Centre for the first six months of 1975, while Otto Lundbohm was still teaching, after which they were asked to leave, apparently because they had spent all their time in the printmaking studio. Although Kubeka did not return to Rorke’s Drift as Mabaso did, he continued his career as a printmaker. Mabaso recalls that Kubeka was a strong influence at Squzu Studio, established by Mabaso in 1982, that that the Squzu was actually named after him and his habit of using the name ‘squzu’ meaning ‘brother’ to address his friends. Mabote and Mabaso both state that Vincent died in a vicious stabbing attack in the 1980s.1
Further consultation with Mabaso revealed additional information. When questioned about Kubeka’s drawing The king (1975), dating from the same year that they were together at Rorke’s Drift, Mabaso recalled the late artist’s fascination with the work of the Surrealist Salvador Dali (1904–1989). He also noted the impression that Walter Battiss had made on Kubeka on one of the former’s six-monthly visits to the Centre. Mabaso also made a point of expressing deep regret that Kubeka had to suspend his art studies in order to look after his family.2
The significance of The king (plate 39) may be attributed to Kubeka’s interest in Dali’s indulgent brand of Surrealism, but given some of the imagery it contains, it may also refer to mystical aspects of Northern Sotho and Pedi culture. One of these is the sacred cult of the drum in initiation, fertility and rain-making rituals, and the god-like status accorded certain drums. The sound of these drums was believed to be pleasing to the ancestors.These rituals at one time also involved the use of masks and were believed to be presided over by a powerful spirit known as the Bird.3 The king was also produced in the same year that Alexis Preller died. Given Kubeka’s admiration for Dali, it is perhaps not beyond the realms of possibility that this drawing may have been influenced by his admiration for South Africa’s ‘Africanist – surrealist’ painter.
In 1985, a year before he died, Kubeka lived in Rockville, Moroka. At this time he brought a number of small terracotta sculptures to Gallery 21. These were initially in the Pelmama Collection, but are now at the Iziko SA National Gallery.
- E. Rankin & P. Hobbs. 2003. Rorke’s Drift: Empowering Prints, Double Storey Press, Cape Town, p. 213.
- Bruce Campbell Smith, telephone conversation with Dumisani Mabaso, 6.2.2008.
- See E. Jensen Krige and J. Krige. 1943. The Realm of a Rain Queen: A Study of the Patten of Lovedu Society. International African Institute/Oxford University Press. pp.126 -27.
Born date and place unknown; stabbed to death at Thotsi, Soweto, 12th April, 1986. Training Six months at Rorke’s Drift, Jan-June 1975. Exhibitions Featured in various exhibitions relating to the Evangelical Lutheran Art Centre at Rorke’s Drift.