Donga was born in 1952 in Orlando East, Soweto, in the province of Johannesburg, South Africa. He received his formal art education at Rorkes Drift in KwaZulu Natal but failed to earn his degree due to lack of funds. Donga also received informal training from various workshops set up in and around Johannesburg. Also trained as a teacher, Donga is actively involved in educating a younger generation of artists in the technical points of working with different media. Donga’s media of preference include pencil, watercolor, pastel, sculpture, print making and scratching plaster.
Artist in Perspective
Donga grew up in Soweto from its early days of dirt streets and tin shacks. It was extremely difficult to earn a living as an artist in Soweto in the early 1970’s, but Donga knew he had a special talent and a compelling need to paint and create. Donga lived through the creation of the apartheid government and witnessed the riots that took place in Soweto. He experienced the emotions of the nation when security police in Rivonia arrested Nelson Mandela. He lived under the impact of the “Dompas Law,” passed by the apartheid government to restrict the movement of the black population in South Africa.
Equally at ease with several media and styles, Donga’s preferred style is abstract. He communicates with the viewer through a personal philosophy that all things, no matter how abstract they seem, can come together and blend to create a strikingly beautiful composition. His paintings are a treat for the subconscious mind, providing rich detail and interaction of his compositions. The images contain symbols, colors and shapes that originate from an unseen color alphabet of the abstract artist. Donga has found a unique blend of African and European contrasts and they come alive in the vivid colors of his work.
One of the marks of a successful abstract painting is when the viewer remarks “give me a brush and some paint, I too can do that.” Donga’s work has been compared to the precision clockwork that makes up a fine Swiss watch. Every detail has been painstakingly fitted into the total painting to make up the whole. There is a delicate mesh that has been woven with hundreds of shapes and a rainbow of colors that all comprise a balanced composition.
Donga’s work is in numerous private collections in South Africa, Holland, Germany, France, Zambia, Portugal and the United States.