The World Observed

The World Observed

Rarely seen moments of play and recreation in Dumile Feni’s drawings

01/12/2023     General News, Timed-Online Auctions

Zwelidumile Geelboi Mgxaji Mslaba 'Dumile' Feni is a beloved and extraordinary South African modernist who had a fondness for drawing from a very young age. It was commonplace for Feni to draw the world around him. Nurturing his art career in the 1960s the artist remained true to his ability to observe and draw the world around him and would not shy away from depicting the oppressive apartheid regime and suffering in South Africa during that time. Although those who follow Feni’s work would be more familiar with the heavier subject matter in his drawings, this collection is a special peek into lighter moments observed by the artist. The pieces featured in FIESTA: Art & Collectables, reveal rarely seen moments of playfulness and recreation, a small window into an archive of the artist’s life before he left South Africa.


LEFT | Lot 26 | The Conversation | ZAR 8 000 - 12 000

RIGHT | Lot 27 | Untitled (Man and Dog) | ZAR 10 000 - 15 000


In The Conversation, two figures seated on an object that resembles an air brick are in conversation. The figure on the right, seemingly looks over his shoulder at the viewer with a slight smile, a quirky moment captured with an accent of red, an uncommon addition to his mostly mono-chromatic works on paper. Untitled (Man and Dog) captures a moment between a man holding objects and the dog who seems to playfully reach for one of these objects. A couple dances in the minimalist composition titled, Untitled (Dancers) and figure studies in various sports with amusing details such as a hat falling off a man’s head as he swings, a shirtless tennis player and the interesting physical distortions that happen just before the bowler slings the cricket ball forward are seen in Untitled (Euro Games).


LEFT| Lot 29 | Untitled (Dancers) | Estimate: ZAR 8 000 - 12 000 

RIGHT| Lot 30 | Untitled (Euro Games) | Estimate: ZAR 12 000 - R 15 000


Illustrating a lighter take on scenes of recreation – moments that most people would normally not notice – this collection of works hails from a suitcase full of drawings that was purchased by entrepreneur and art connoisseur and patron, Desmon Fisher. The suitcase was aquired in 1968, before Feni departed for London for his self-exile journey and aided him as he left South Africa. Fisher deeply respected Feni’s work and was also a patron of other renowned modernists such as Sydney Kumalo, Cecil Skotnes and Ezrom Legae. Many of these drawings featured in the Dumile Feni exhibition at the Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Makanda 1991, co-curated by Fisher and his friend and advisor Linda Goodman of the Goodman Gallery.






FIESTA: Art & Collectables

23 November - 5 December 2023


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