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Themba Sibeko’s ‘The Dreamers Ever Leave You’, a Recap

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The Wunika Mukan Gallery presented ‘The Dreamers Ever Leave You’, Themba Sibeko’s solo exhibition which began on the 27th of April and ran until the 12th of May 2024. For his first solo exhibition in Nigeria, Sibeko envisioned scenarios-nestled in familiar territories while capturing moments of motion and rest. Themba Sibeko is a Johannesburg-based visual artist who was born and raised in Katlehong, in the Gauteng province of South Africa. Based in Johannesburg, Sibeko studied Analytical Chemistry at the University of Johannesburg, where he explored the relationship between the bonding of atoms and molecules, which now informs his art practice.

Themba Sibeko, The Dreamer’s Grace, 2024, Acrylic on Canvas 71.1 x 55.9 cm, Image courtesy of Wunika Mukan Gallery’s website

Sibeko closely embraces concepts surrounding the structures behind chemical bonds, juxtaposing their similarities with interpersonal relationships and encounters that forge meaningful human connections. While his works are largely figurative, they often possess blank facial features, representing human experiences and serving as metaphors for the universal human desires for recognition, approval, and a sense of belonging. They take to heart the common saying: ‘There’s more than meets the eye.’

Themba Sibeko, Hope In a Ballet Shoe II, 2024, Acrylic on canvas 183 × 121cm, Image courtesy of Wunika Mukan Gallery’s website

For the exhibition at Wunika Mukan Gallery, ‘The Dreamers Ever Leave You,’ Themba Sibeko presented 10 paintings as part of his ongoing dialogue between human existence and the abstract realms of dreams and realities. His exploration of these themes dives into identity, connection and the pursuit of meaning in the ever-changing world. The works reflect a conversation initiated in Lawren Harris’ poem, from which the title of the exhibition is derived, contemplating the enduring impact of dreams and imagination on the human spirit. It reflects on the idea that even as life moves forward, the dreams we hold dear and visions we cherish remain with us, shaping our perception and guiding our path.

Themba Sibeko, Then Came Elisha, 2023 Acrylic on Canvas 121.9 x 91.4cm, Image courtesy of Wunika Mukan Gallery’s website

​This exhibition illustrates how Sibeko’s practice developed a distinct storytelling style that the artist repeatedly returned to, even as he explored diverse scenes and subjects. Sibeko describes his artworks as scenes in a movie, each carefully crafted to convey a specific narrative. In his artistic practice, Sibeko begins by researching and conceptualising the story he wants to tell, drawing inspiration from various sources including documentaries, prayer, social media platforms like Instagram or YouTube, as well as his own imagination. Regardless of the origin of his ideas, Sibeko emphasizes the importance of creating a cohesive flow within each series, ensuring that they culminate in a complete “movie” with a clear beginning and end. Through this deliberate approach to storytelling, Sibeko invites viewers to immerse themselves in the cinematic narratives he constructs. Staying true to this, ‘The Dreamers Ever Leave You’ showcases scenes from a ballet performance’s three stages of production – pre-performance, performance and post-performance, which inform familiarity and connection.

Themba Sibeko, The Rehearsal. 2024, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas 121.9 x 91.4cm, Image courtesy of Wunika Mukan Gallery’s website

Themba’s work has been featured in group exhibitions including, Vision of the Limitless Future, curated by the Ditau collection at the Belmond hotel (2023); My first love, curated by Brown eyed boy and Nene Mahlangu (2022). His works are in various collections which included Ditau collection, Black Coffee collection and Maduna Collection.


Lelethu Sobekwa was born in Gqeberha, South Africa. She holds a BA Honours in English and an MA in Creative Writing with distinction from Rhodes University. Lelethu currently writes for Art Network Africa.

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