"An archivist of a future African past in the present time, I wish not only to preserve but to help rewrite the collective memory of blackness across the spectrum of her muddied hues in a language so vivid and worthy of our rebellion. To become, we re-imagine what is and what is not. The edge we once knew to be fear became a springboard for us to leap into the unknown, only so our dreams could learn to fly. "
Inspired by the realm of dreams as an archive Maela’s work and practice primarily concerns itself with human behavior and well-being within socio-economic and psychospiritual frameworks, particularly in African contexts.
Tsoku Maela was born in the Limpopo province, South Africa, and works between Johannesburg and Cape Town. He completed his undergraduate at The South African School of Motion Picture Medium, Cape Town, in 2014. He worked as a copywriter and scriptwriter for both corporate advertising and live television shortly thereafter, but it was in his experimental photography as a hobbyist where he found clarity in issues of the mind, body, and spirit through modes of storytelling and dreams as an archive of past and future realities.
Growing up in a country scarred by colonial histories and living as part of a generation navigating the self through a young democracy, Maela's approach utilizes these memories and histories to construct new African and global perspectives and futures. In short: using story to empower and heal instead of reliving historical traumas with no end in sight.
Maela was awarded the Standard Bank Rising star award in 2016 for Media & Marketing, and has exhibited in Lagos, Zürich, Miami at Art Basel and a selection of student-organized exhibitions such as Ljubljana University Medical Centre in Ljubljana , Slovenia. Private collections of his works include the contemporary art collection M&C SAATCHI, Amawal collection, and the JP Morgan Abadali art collection, among others.
2014 - Boom! Baby group exhibition: Young Blood beautiful life Gallery, Cape Town
2014 - Month of Photography group exhibition and talk: Mogalakwena Gallery
2015 - Mass is art group exhibition: Pan African Market, Cape Town
2015 - Cape GRID International Photography Bennial: Castle of Good hope, Cape Town
2015 - Broken Things: A story of self-love: Solo Exhibition, 99 Loop Gallery
2016 - Barongwa: I am that I am: Solo Exhibition, 99 Loop Gallery
2016 - Rituals, LagosPhoto Festival, Nigeria (Broken Things)
2017 - Photo17, solo, Directors selection (Broken Things), Zurich
2017 - Turbine Art Fair, Lizamore and Associate Gallery
2017 - 35 years: Trailblazers group exhibition, Lizamore & Associates gallery
2017 - FNB Joburg Art Fair, group exhibition with Ablade Glover & Tony Gum, Christopher Moller gallery
2018 - ICT Cape Town Art Fair, group show with Neo Matloga, Ablade Glover (including Andrew Solgado Solo)
2018 - No More clichés, please, solo. Lizamore & Associates gallery
2018 - In Silva group exhibition (including: Gina Waldman, Diane Victor, Anastasia Pather), Kalashnikov gallery, Johannesburg.
2018 - Appropriate, PULSE Art Fair, Art Basel, Miami - Christopher Moller gallery
2019 - In Silva, KKNK Festival, Oudtshoorn
2020 - Heart & Mind, Silvermine Arts center, New Canaan, Connecticut
2020 - Je Sais Pourquoi Chante L'oiseau en cage, Montreal, Quebec
2020- Photo London fair (Digital)
2020 - AKAA (Also Known as Africa) art and design fair, Paris
2021 - London Art Fair
"Journey" a dual show by Tsoku Maela and Tony Gum, Christopher Moller Gallery 27 June - 2 July, 2021
Addis Foto Festival, Addis, Ethiopia, December 2021
- "The language of crazy", State of Dis-ease: A transdisciplinary workshop on South African health and Illness presented by JIAS , University of Witwatersrand (2019)
- Mental health stigma discussion with Sarah Agatoni, Hamwe Festival (Rwanda), University of Global Health Equity (2020)
- Dagmar Van Weeghel and Tsoku Maela in conversation with Dr. Amanda Maples (curator of African Art North Carolina Museum of Art), AKAA art design fair (2020)
- Exploring identity through photography: Diane Smyth in conversation with Jane England, Adjoa Armah and Tsoku Maela, Photo London (2021)
- CAP Prize (top 25 shorlist: 2016 & 2019)
- Standard Bank Rising star award: Media & Marketing (2016)
- 3rd place, Movement: Art for social change , Pitroda Art (2021)
- Amplify Studio Artist in residence, Cape Town, 2017
- "The exchange" residency programme curated by Dr. Erinma Ochu as part of Sheffield International Documentary Festival (Artists in residence: Suzie Larke (Wales), Tsoku Maela (SA), 2020
CNN: African voices, GUP Magazine, VICE, Hyperallergic, Contemporary Art curator magazine, Transition Magazine (Harvard University), ZAM Magazine, Human Factor 3, ART MUCH? (University of Johannesburg), Sunday Times, City Press, Indwe Magazine, Mango JUICE, Shots Magazine