Ukuzala – Ukuzelula!  is loosely translated as ‘ Through procreation, one is stretching one’s bones’ or ‘To give birth is to stretch myself’ or ‘To give birth is to increase my help or strength’. In this work I recognise the process of marriage and child bearing in three pillars: integrity, respect and endurance. All three are interconnected and taken to represent a strong foundation, balance and strength, especially in the role of a mother. Through marriage, the importance of having children is believed to be what “enlarges and extends one’s connection with humanity…enlarges and releases one’s spirit, indeed, one’s being is enriched and enabled.”[i] Endurance is supposed to produce character throughout the process of marriage, while the lack of endurance is seen as a failure. I use the black veils to speak to the symbol of strength and endurance that the female body is expected to embody.


In this work, I re-imagine the artworks titled Zimkhitha (2019). The series is a collection of veils made from black beads through which I explore the idea of ‘one with dignity’ – a quality of honour and respect. The idea of dignity can be an in-between space of bodies, images and archives of monumentalised subjects that are either fixed or given the space to change, experiment, multiply and interconnect. Zimkitha can be any person(s) or thing(s), of any race(s), gender(s), sex(s), culture(s), quality(s), quantity(s) and structure(s). He, she or it is seen, acknowledged and honoured. These artworks carry with them issues of gender, race, love, memory, death, economy, fashion, craft, beauty, design, decoration, and tradition.

Philiswa Lila Headshot

Philiswa Lila

Philiswa Lila is a visual artist, curator and scholar fascinated by the socially relevant and timely issues of authorship and agency, memory histories and theories of personal identities. Lila holds an Honours in Curatorship from UCT and a B.Tech in Fine and Applied Arts from TUT. She works across the disciplines of painting, installation and performance art, using materials like animal skin (sheep, goat and cow), beading, wood, paper, canvas and video. Some of her ongoing projects explore individual experiences as recognisable or familiar cultural narratives – mainly in isiXhosa but conscious of the interconnectedness of cultures in South Africa.

Lila was the 2018 recipient of the prestigious Gerard Sekoto Award, which included a residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris. The artworks she produced in Paris featured in her debut solo exhibition entitled Skin, Bone, Fire: The First Album which was first hosted by the Absa Gallery and will be touring to various venues in South Africa.

Her achievements include residencies at the Bag Factory Studios in Johannesburg and Greatmore Studios in Cape Town. Selected group exhibitions and collections include: University of South Africa Acquisitions, Joburg Art Fair Dialogue with Masters, Pretoria Art Museum Neo Emergence, Review Exhibition for Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, Sculptx, Speculative Enquiry 1, and Turbine Art Fair. Dr. Esther Mahlangu selected Lila as an ‘artist to watch’ for the 2019 SEED auction. Lila is represented by The Melrose Gallery.