Bheki Khambule was the winner of the 2008 Nivea Art Start Award, an award aimed at emerging artists in KwaZulu-Natal. Supported by Beiersdorf, the makers of Nivea skin-care products, the award has proved invaluable in encouraging professional development of artists through exhibitions at the KZNSA, scholarships, training and links with art training institutions and significant material prizes for the winners.
As one of the prizes, the winning artist is awarded a solo exhibition in the KZNSA’s Nivea Gallery. For It’s a Mask, Khambule has drawn his theme from the truism that “looks can be deceiving”. He uses portraiture to unpack this simple concept but, more importantly, to unpack his own identity. The act of portraying himself and the people he relates to allows him to reflect on such questions of who he is, what he is about, what he stands for and, ironically, how he wants other people to read him. The artist writes: “Working on this body of work has allowed me to shamelessly accept and appreciate my contemporary urban lifestyle; it is this lifestyle which is reflected on my canvas.