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South Africa: Alex Maswanganyi, the Soweto artist with special needs exploring Turkish art

Alex Maswanganyi, a 25-year-old artist from Soweto,   -  
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South Africa

One of the leading centers of the struggle against white racist apartheid, Soweto is a district of symbolic importance in terms of the country's recent history. South Africa's sad history lies here, with streets that have witnessed riots and massacres.

Built by the regime as a "black residential area", this famous "township" now hosts a population of more than a million, mostly black.

Soweto is also one of Johannesburg's leading cultural and artistic centers. This district, where music and dance are inseparable parts of life, brings new names to South African art. Alex Maswanganyi, a 25-year-old artist from Soweto, is one of them.

Painter Maswanganyi shares about his difficult life stretching from the streets of Soweto to Turkey.

Stating that he was born with Down syndrome and heart disease, he grew up without a family and managed to overcome what he went through by painting, Maswanganyi said, "I cook and sell chicken barbecues on the streets to make a living, I occasionally go to painting and renovation works, I live in a one-eyed tin shack with a view of Soweto Tower and I just want to focus on my art. " he said.

- "The only game I had was being able to draw with my pencil"

Emphasizing that he was born in a very poor family, Maswanganyi said that his father, who had no education, was involved in a robbery to cover the expenses. Maswanganyi said, "For this, he went to one of the suburbs where the white and wealthy part of the city lives. This was not his first crime. He had a conviction for many crimes. He was caught, arrested."

Maswanganyi stated that they never heard from his father again, and that he was able to survive with the care of a doctor.

Saying that his mother left him in a tin shanty with his sister when he was only 4 years old, Maswanganyi noted that the landlord adopted him.

Maswanganyi stated that he could not play with other children due to his health condition and continued:

"The only thing that distracted me from all this was drawing because the only game I had was being able to draw with my pencil."

- "I learned basic things from Turkish calligrapher Refik Çarıkçı"

Stating that he met Turkish culture at the Yunus Emre Institute (YEE) calligraphy course in Johannesburg in 2019, Maswanganyi said, "This was the course I was looking for, but the fee was 2 thousand rand (2 thousand 133 Turkish liras). It was not easy to save the money, but I was able to collect it in 4-5 weeks." said.

Expressing that his interest in Turkish culture increased after he learned some basic things from the Turkish calligrapher Refik Çarıkçı in this 6-week course, Maswanganyi said that from now on he started to include Turkey more in his works.

Maswanganyi stated that the portraits of Yunus Emre and Nelson Mandela look at each other in a corner of this hut that will not get wet when it rains, "I describe Yunus Emre as a figure who fought for peace, love and solidarity, and in this respect, Yunus Emre and Nelson Mandela have the same vision. I think it is.” he said.

Maswanganyi continued:

"The Turkish Ambassador liked my paintings very much and said he wanted to offer me the opportunity to go to Turkey and see the places I included in my paintings, but I didn't even have citizenship. How would I do that? How would I go to Turkey? I didn't tell them anything about it, I tried to kill it somehow."

Explaining that he took a photo with Nelson Mandela's granddaughter Ndlika Mandela and Turkey's Ambassador to Pretoria Ayşegül Kandaş and went to the relevant institution for identification, Maswanganyi said, "I lived without an ID for 24 years, but that day, when I showed the photo in my hand to the officials, they were directly interested. The same day. They gave me my birth certificate within 2 weeks, and my ID came out within 2 weeks." he said.

- "Istanbul was extraordinary"

Pointing out that he was the first person in his neighborhood to go abroad when he set out to visit Turkey last month, Maswanganyi said that this situation created a "Turkey agenda" in the neighborhood and that people were proud of him.

Maswanganyi stated that he was very happy with the sincerity, friendship and hospitality he saw in Turkey. I love it and it's peaceful, no crime." made its assessment.

Maswanganyi stated that he continues to take Turkish courses at YEE and said, "My future goal is to go to Turkey and improve my Turkish and art. I want to help strengthen the cultural ties between our countries." used his statements.

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