There is not a work by KwaZulu Natal born artist Welcome Danca that does not elicit emotional response. It is impossible not to feel. This passionate, talented artist has been creating visual narratives since the early 2000’s. His mentor, the celebrated and late Trevor Makhoba, would have been more than proud of his apprentice, whose award-winning work has become a local and international sensation. Part-inspired by Vladimir Tretchikoff, Danca’s recognizable blue hues in people representations draws anyone into his stories. He regularly exhibits at Fourways’ Arteye Gallery.
I discovered my love of art in 1996, while I was still in primary school. My biology and geography teacher saw that I had a talent for drawing, and they would always ask me to do illustrations for other learners. I relished showing other learners what I could do,” says Danca. “This was the best part of going to school because I knew that I had something in me that other learners did not possess. I had a passion and love for the arts but as a young boy I didn’t know or even think that there would be someone who would look and respect me as a serious artist.” When he was in high school, he met Makhaba who introduced him to the African Art Centre in Durban. Here, he participated in a group exhibition and “to my surprise every painting sold from that exhibition. After that I knew that I just had to keep going.”
In 2006 Danca was nominated for his first award, the Brett Kebble Art Awards for his lurid and frightening image of a female prostitute. Unfortunately, the awards collapsed before a winner could be announced. Since then, he has palmed in several accolades and his work can be found in prominent collections such as the Killie Campbell Collections and several university galleries and museums.
“My work is meant to teach people about how we live in our community; people are so often busy with their day to day lives that they don’t stop to look or listen. I make work that will uplift them, work that will educate them about our contemporary society. I also use found materials in my works to document a particular period in our lives and in South Africa, so that young children especially can understand and appreciate how far we have evolved. The most important part of my work is always the subject matter.”
Danca says much of his work captures history for future generations. “Every time I walk out of the house, I make sure that I have my camera and sketch book with me so that I can photograph beautiful tender moments in my community. Sometimes when traveling I happen to overhear what people are talking about, and then I get out my sketch book so that I can capture facial expressions. People, life and how we live play an integral role in my work.”
He says that he is proud of what he creates. “I know that someday someone will learn from it and understand our history in contemporary society and not easily take advantage of opportunities presented to them as they will have an idea of how far we have come and how much we worked to make the world a better place for them.”
His blue hued characters, inspired by Tretchikoff, he says is a theme he has carried throughout all his work. He says that “because in the evening your skin tone becomes darker, almost a blue colour, it talks about how hard you have to work, even sometimes at night, to be who you want to be, hence the blue tone character, success is not hindered by the time of day.”
“When people look at my work, I want them to remember the spirit of Ubuntu,” says Danca. He wants people to respect one another. He has a strong opinion about today’s youth which, he says, seems to have lost some of Ubuntu’s impetus. “Most of our youth are constantly on their phones and we have lost touch with who we are, what we stand for and where we are going. Life has become about instant gratification instead of working hard to get whatever it is you are trying to achieve.”
He believes that art has an important role to play in society and says that it can be educational, and that it teaches lessons about the world. That it is almost a historical account of life. “Art exists to teach to question and to challenge preconceived notions. it is there to inspire, and it broadens the mind physically and mentally as well,” he says.