Sisonke Papu is a storyteller and multi-disciplinary artist born in 1992 in New Payne in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. Papu also goes by the name KHNYSA, meaning “the one who brings light”, which was given to them by their ancestors when they accepted his spiritual calling to become an igqirha (the isiXhosa designation for someone who has been called by their ancestors to heal). Their work explores spatial, emotional and spiritual temporalities by engaging ideas of everydayness, the real and imaginary, dreams and memory, the unseen as well as the mythical, ritual, sonic and cosmic.
Papu is the founder and director of ISPILI Network, which fosters dialogue, collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurship among young creatives in the Eastern Cape. The ISPILI Network runs visual art and design projects, publishes a magazine, and creates film and sound design aimed at healing, remembering, archiving and transmission of indigenous knowledge, research and development.
A former English Literature lecturer at Nelson Mandela University, they also hold a BA Honours (Cum Laude) from the same institution. Papu has presented academic papers at the Philosophical Association of Southern Africa, as well as the Caribbean Philosophical Association’s annual conference. In 2020 they were one of eight emerging artists from the Eastern Cape to participate in the inaugural Bodyland Incubator Residency facilitated by Athi-Patra Ruga in Hogsback. They are also the 2021 Fellow of One Beat Residency, an initiative of the United States Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Papu has published their poetry in Aerodrom, New Coin and Puerto Del Sol, and contributed an essay about Andile Dyalvane’s use of symbology to his iThongo catalogue.