31st Oct, 2021 11:00

Art, Life and Love: The Collection of Nwabisa Xayiya (Live Auction)

  Lot 19
Lot 19 - Dumile Feni (South Africa 1942-1991)


Dumile Feni (South Africa 1942-1991)
Horse Rider


Signature details: stamped with the TLA Foundry Stamp back left foot of horse

Sold for R358,470
Estimated at R300,000 - R500,000



Signature details: stamped with the TLA Foundry Stamp back left foot of horse


68 x 63 x 38 cm


Gallery Momo, Johannesburg.


Zwelidumile Jeremiah Mgxaji, commonly known as Dumile Feni (1942-1991), was a former anti-apartheid activist, visual artist, and filmmaker born in Worcester, a small town outside Cape Town.

Even though he was born into a relatively comfortable family (in the context of racial segregation), after his parents died, the sickly and orphaned teenage Dumile and his siblings fell on hard times and yet he still managed to find refuge in art. It would be in the fraught and politically sterilised context of 1960s Johannesburg that Dumile’s highly prized evocative drawings and sculptures – that captured both the liberal art establishment and his fellow artists – and his name came to critical prominence.

His unique and forceful pictorial style seized the sombre mood of the time with unapologetic vigour. Rather than resigning to the afflictions of the day, Dumile’s art asserted a visual parlance through which the ravaged human-cum-animalised body of the oppressed regained a social agency. This animal-man idiomatic reference in Dumile’s oeuvre is a thematically varied subject matter the artist has explored almost throughout his career and is in this case done through the bronze sculpture Horse Rider.

Horse Rider depicts a father and child duo on horse back. Riding here takes on a double meaning: that is, the man and child riding the horse and the child riding the man. Though riding might for others be a pleasurable pastime, in Horse Rider Dumile seems to be reminding us of the unthought, and indeed cumulative, effects our pleasures might have on those species reduced to “beasts of burden.” Although not necessarily reducing humans to animals, even when an uncanny animal/man profile can be detected, it seems that Dumile’s analogy is making us sensitive enough to a moral degeneration and the snowballing of practices of exploitation in our ecosystem.

Quite opposite to this however, are the works The Duo (lot 21) and Couple with Umbrella (lot 20) from his famous Nina series (based on Dumile’s observations and memorialisations of his relationship with U.S. curator and friend Nina Bergmann) – which retain a more sensuous and deliberately light-hearted comportment about them.

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Auction: Art, Life and Love: The Collection of Nwabisa Xayiya (Live Auction), 31st Oct, 2021

This October, 2021, we are honoured to present Art, Life and Love:  The Collection of Nwabisa Xayiya, a single owner auction showcasing the cultivated taste and style of Nwabisa Xayiya.

The auction offers examples by great modernists as well as exciting contemporary pieces. Notable is a selection of work by George Pemba. There is also a set of impressive urban scenes and portraits by Gerard Sekoto, a rarely seen Alexis Preller, a glorious Robert Hodgins, and varied examples of Dumile Feni’s work. Within the contemporary offering, there are outstanding works by Blessing Ngobeni, Sam Nhlengethwa, William Kentridge, Teresa Firmino, Athi-Patra Ruga, Kudzanai Chiurai, Nelson Makamo, Owusu-Ankomah and Nicholas Hlobo.


Lots will be on view at the Xayiya residence: 63 4th Street, Houghton, Johannesburg
Saturday 23 October to Saturday 30 October from 10 am to 6 pm

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