Multidisciplinary artist Navel Seakamela was born in 1991 in Soshanguve, Tshwane, and grew up in Tembisa township just outside Johannesburg.
A figurative artist, Seakamela’s practice focuses on portraiture through the medium of painting and drawing. He explores themes of self-representation and Black identity from the perspective of his own post-Apartheid generation, addressing feelings of isolation, gender precepts and the psychological impact of consumerist culture. His subjects appear as silhouettes of ambiguous gender, with few details or distinguishing features other than their dark tonality and, very often, prominent red mouths. Although his large-scale paintings on unstretched canvas depict not so much the individual person as a sense of shared identity, the close framing of his subjects and emotive expression lend his portraits an intimacy and sense of vulnerability.
Seakamela’s interest in art began at the Tembisa Art Centre, leading him to pursue more formal studies at Tshwane University of Technology. where he completed a diploma in visual arts in 2015. He has participated in numerous local exhibitions since 2013, and was selected as a finalist in the Thami Mnyele Fine Art Awards and the PPC Imaginarium Art Competition (2014-2015). His first solo exhibition, at Kalashnikovv Gallery in Johannesburg in 2021, was followed by another at Bonne Espérance in France.
His debut solo with Southern Guild in 2022, Who We Should Not Be, featured mixed media portraits in which he reflects on the role of leisure. The series of large-scale works depicting people in moments of quietude, repose and vulnerability, was completed while he was the first artist in residence at the GUILD Residency.