Kneo Mokgopa is an artist living and working in Johannesburg, South Africa. Their current works explore scenes of identity-making in Black queer, post-Apartheid, South Africa in oil paints and collage on enamel and plastic bowls and basins commonly used in South Africa for eating, bathing and other domestic uses by many Black people in Southern Africa.
By using plastic and enamel bowls and basins, Kneo is able to collect and activate the traditions, cultures and practices of urban and peri-urban Black identities in South Africa. The medium played a dominant role in the artist’s childhoods in Zondi, Soweto, and Katlehong, Ekhuruleni, Johannesburg. These bowels and basins are used to store meat, baked scones and water during traditional ceremonies. The plastic basins are also used for bathing by both adults and children in the townships when Kneo grew up.
In the application of the oil paint is an attempt to capture the flailing emotions in each scene, an attempt to make the paint vibrate and boil into the space of the audience. The scenes and narrative captured in the titling of this body of work weave notions of the making of Black and queer identity in South Africa with the narratives of the Christian bible. In this way, the artist elevates Black and queer identity into sainthood, appropriating and misappropriating directly from the works of William Blake and other artists of the European Romantic period.
Kneo is also a burgeoning writer with a regular column in the Daily Maverick where they explore South African socio-economic politics. They host the Unthere podcast and work at the Nelson Mandela Foundation as the Advocacy and Communications Manager. They are a graduate of the Jules and Wilfred Kramer Law School at the University of Cape Town and are currently writing their Masters dissertation on Human Rights and Africanist political movements.