Percy Ndithembile Konqobe was born in 1939 in Nigel, Transvaal (now known as Gauteng Province). He completed school through standard six (now Grade Eight) before leaving to work. He was employed at several jobs and spent some years in prison until around 1976, when he felt called to become a sangoma or traditional healer. Since that time he worked as a traditional Zulu healer in Soweto. This work has informed his art, instilling a sense of mysticism in many of his pieces.
Konqobe began creating works of art in the early 1970s, encouraged by the sculptor Sydney Khumalo. Konqobe credited Khumalo with being his mentor and a source of inspiration for the style and subject matter of his art. Still, Konqobe was a largely self-taught artist. He worked largely in clay, a medium closely integrated with the spiritual belief in the significance of soil as the ancestral resting place.
In the early 1980s, Konqobe visited Europe several times. He attended the Shaman Symposia, showing some of his pieces there. His clay sculptures received high praise, encouraging him to devote more time to his artistic work in 1986. Around 1980s, he also began casting his sculptures in bronze. Konqobe’s first solo exhibition at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg in 1988 met success.
Konqobe’s sculptures have been described as “lyrical”, and largely take images of human beings as their subjects. Most of his pieces remained relatively small in size, though critics noted their potentially monumental qualities. His figurative interpretations channel religious and cultural themes and Konqobe cites his dreams as major sources of guidance and inspiration. He felt a recurring dream he had in the late 1980s, involving a lion hatching from an egg, foretold the unbanning of the African National Congress and release of Nelson Mandela from prison. He created three sculptures based on these dreams, one of which was presented to Mandela in November 1990.
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