Xirilo's artwork pays homage to his late mother

Date:14 July 2022 - By: Thembi Siaga

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Xirilo Ngobeni, a recognised ceramic and spray-painting artist from Mashau Doli, is fast becoming known for his uniquely designed ceramic burial urns. These urns represent a female figure – specifically that of his late mother - to whom his work is dedicated.

Originally from Soweto, Xirilo completed his schooling at Khwara Secondary School in 2011. He initially began his art journey with the desire to paint, but that was before he fell in love with ceramics. He was introduced to this medium while at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), where he obtained a diploma in Fine and Applied Arts in 2020.

In 2021, he was a finalist for the Inniebos National Craft Awards, which is supported by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC). Thus far, he has showcased his art at TUT’s Ceramics Department’s annual exhibition, which aims to expose students to a professional exhibition environment. Earlier this year, he also showcased his work at the Johann van Heerden Art Gallery in Pretoria as part of a group exhibition curated by Nico Erasmus.

The 28-year-old artist was chosen to exhibit his work at the annual SculpX, to be held at the Melrose Gallery in Johannesburg around September this year. “I feel great because SculpX is the largest annual sculpture fair in South Africa, and I am optimistic that this opportunity will open many doors for me,” he said.

Xirilo’s burial urns are greatly influenced by and also pay homage to his mother. “These urns interpret the sadness, happiness, spirituality, love and memories I shared with my mother and profoundly communicates how I deal with my loss. My work has greatly helped me to deal with her passing,” he said.

Every part of the urns symbolises something. “There are pipes connected to the main shape. These pipes are a symbol of the ever-flowing love of a mother to her child. The pipes also symbolise memories shared. There are parts on the urns that depict marks of scarification, which my mother had on her face to improve her eyesight. She was the only one among her siblings who went through this ritualistic process. Incorporating this onto my urns gives them their uniqueness and liberates me. I use copper oxides to enhance the depth and beauty of scarification. I don’t do sketches when I create these anthropomorphic funerary urns. Instead, I allow the process of making them guide me,” he said.

With three years of practise as a professional ceramic artist, Xirilo is also a student’s assistant and mentor. “This year I am doing my post-graduate diploma, and next year I am hoping to do my master’s. I believe that my work is guided by the gods,” he said.

For bookings, Xirilo is available on Instagram (Wayne22art) or call him on 074 607 6275.



Local ceramic and spray-painting artist Xirilo Ngobeni in action. Photo: Christo Niemandt.


By: Thembi Siaga

Thembi Siaga worked as an intern during 2021. He assisted with video photography and editing. He also produced numerous small documentaries, focusing on the Vhembe region and its people.






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