Rikhotso adorns his characters with flamboyant attire and a quirky sense of humor

Philip Rikhotso

The pioneer and true, gentle, authentic artist Philip Rikhotso passed away in September 2015. This is a tribute to his unique, quirky style and wonderful personality.

Materials and techniques

Rikhotso incorporated found objects into his sculptures without modifying them in any way. Examples are radios, speakers, steel handles, a crocheted hat, animal fur and a whole goat skin.  His figures were embellished with such items as earrings, bangles and flamboyant attire such as nail polish, resulting in many of his sculptures adorned with his quirky sense of humour. Rikhotso uses traditional carving tools too.  He utilized a variety of media to colour his sculptures such as wax crayon, enamel paints or PVA.  The final coat is usually a light varnish.

Cultural context

The work of artists such as Rikhotso can be understood within a cross-cultural context that many people, living in the rural areas of South Africa, find themselves. Although their lifestyles are dominated by traditions (as is their artistic style), they have become aware through rural-urban movement and new technology, of a world which is far more complex and driven by a commercial value rather than a spiritual and cultural one.  The work of Rikhotso was a response to this awareness.

Physical world and Tsonga folklore intersects

His imagery was often drawn from two points of reference; the physical world which Rikhotso observed around him and his personal interpretations of Tsonga legends and folklore. Rikhotso often combined these in a somewhat random and arbitrary way and the final sculptural image became a mythical and imaginative one.  He often integrated an animal and a human form into one image or combined features of many different animals such aardvarks, armadillo, crocodiles or birds with devilish horns into one representation. Alternatively, he may have sculpted two separate images and then combined them into one, creating a totem-like representation.
Rikhotso lived in Dzumeri, near Giyani in Limpopo Province. He was a self-taught artist who began carving in 1977. He was a prolific carver, used quinine or marula wood, indigenous to the area and also at times soapstone when wood became scarce.
He left behind his wife Mamaila and his 8 children. His youngest daughter Lindah now works as administrator at Madi a Thavha.