Jabulani Sam Nhlengethwa was born on 9 January 1955 in the Payneville township of Springs, Gauteng (formerly Transvaal). Forced removals in the area made his family relocate to Kwa-Themba. He spent much of his childhood there as well as in Ratanda, Heidelberg with his grandmother. He attended the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift and studied at the Johannesburg Art Foundation.

Nhlengethwa became interested in art at an early age. He began assembling his art collection in 1977 during his first year at Rorke’s Drift, swapping his own work for pieces by his schoolmates. In his own art, he drew inspiration from the townships where he grew up. Time spent talking with older members of the community in shebeens and with his older brother, a jazz musician, helped shape Nhlengethwa’s work. In addition to building his art collection, he collected jazz records from the age of 17.

After graduating from Rorke’s Drift, Nhlengethwa taught part-time at the Johannesburg-based Federative Union of Black Artists (FUBA) and travelled extensively. He studied at the Mofolo Art Centre in Soweto, and participated in Thupelo and Triangle workshops. He cofounded the Bag Factory Artists’ Studio in Johannesburg in 1991, mainly to provide studio space to black artists who had little access to artistic resources. He won the Standard Bank Young Artist award in 1994. For 13 years he worked as a television technician for SABC, at the time a predominately white institution.

Nhlengethwa’s collage pieces, using reproductions he clips from magazines, are among his most recognized works. He has also worked in photogravure and lithographs. He has exhibited around South Africa as well as in Germany, France, the United States, Botswana and elsewhere. Collections at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Iziko South African National Gallery, the Durban Art Gallery and other institutions include his work.

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Jason, S. (2014) ‘Sam Nhlengethwa’s palate for fine things’, Mail & Guardian, 4 July. Available at mg.co.za. [Accessed 26 January 2015]
Bag Factory Artists Studios, ‘About: Board’. Available at www.bagfactoryart.org.za. [Accessed 26 January 2015]
Koloane, D. ‘Sam Nhlengethwa’ University of Cape Town. Available at www.uct.ac.za. [Accessed 26 January 2015]
David Krut Projects, ‘Sam Nhlengethwa’. Available at www.davidkrutprojects.com. [Accessed 26 January 2015]
Becker, R. ‘Sam Nhlengethwa’ Revisions: Expanding the Narrative of South African Art.