#MyJoburg with Boemo Diale, multidisciplinary artist

09 Apr 2024
In our #MyJoburg series, we speak to people who add something unique to Joburg's creative mix and get the lowdown on what enthrals them about this city.

Symbols of spirituality, femininity, and freedom sing in the vivacious work of Boemo Diale. The 20-something, multidisciplinary artist is represented by Kalashnikovv Gallery in Johannesburg, who took her exhibition, Going Home, to the 2024 edition of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair. There, Diale was named as the recipient of the prestigious Tomorrows/Today Prize for emerging artists. 

Visually, her work is like a bowl of ripe fruit. Making playful use of layered spray paint, ink, pastel, and acrylic in lush compositions, Diale has applied her eye to printmaking too, having interned at David Krut Workshop, and more recently began making ceramic vessels that carry the conversation into three-dimensional space. In fact, vessels are a recurring motif for Diale – whether crafted in clay or captured on a painted surface. Drawing a thread from the very beginnings of human civilisation, they are functionally irreplaceable and spiritually charged.

Diale grew up between Rustenburg, Mahikeng, and the suburbs of Joburg, where she learnt to navigate different racial and socio-political realities as a young, mixed-race woman. Her work explores her sense of place and formative maternal relationships, circling the notion of home as a source of comfort and healing, as well as pain. A beautiful spirit of devotion underpins Diale’s practice, as she likens artmaking to prayer. This can be seen in her upcoming solo show opening on Thu, Apr 4, 2024, at Everard Read Gallery in Cape Town. 
Boemo Diale, It’s a two for one special. Photo: Boemo Diale.

From what she hopes to inspire through her work to her experience of living in Joburg, we got to know the Parkhurst-based artist a little better.

What drew you to art and what made you want to be an artist?
I have been making art since I was quite young, but it was only towards the end of high school that I considered studying or pursuing art professionally.

"My number-one tip for Joburg visitors is to guard your phone and don't be afraid to make friends."

You've just had a big win at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair as the 2024 Tomorrows/Today Prize recipient. What does it mean to have your work recognised in this way?
The prize came as a big surprise. The booths in the section were exceptionally strong. Many of the artists are people I look up to or am inspired by. I think it has been quite affirming that I'm on the right path and doing the right thing.

You've spoken about the role of prayer in your practice. How is making art akin to devotion, for you?
I speak of the power of prayer in my work as a form of devotion to self and past generations. The borders around the work act as prayer and protection, like an idea of a cyclic loop through generations.

"I hope to inspire feelings of expansion and hope, to allow oneself to grow out of the confines we think we are limited to."

What are you currently exploring in your work?
I am working with symbols of spirituality, femininity, and freedom.

How has your work evolved in terms of form and content over the years? Are you surprised by any of the turns it's taken?
My work has evolved a lot over the past years, perhaps more aesthetically, visually, and in scale, but the context has remained fairly the same.

What do you hope to inspire in people through your art?
I often say that I hope to inspire feelings of expansion and hope, to allow oneself to grow out of the confines we think we are limited to.
The decadent delights at the Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff pair wonderfully with afternoon tea. Photo: Supplied.

How did your experiences growing up between rural and urban settings shape you?
The juxtaposition between the rural and urban showed inequality both within my family and in South Africa. It was inspiring however to see this as a cause for the resilience my mother and grandmother were carrying, and still are.

Home is...
My grandmother's home.

Your favourite Joburg suburb, and why you choose it?
Probably Parkwood and the surrounding areas. I love the trees and old homes.

What three things should a visitor not leave Joburg without seeing or experiencing?
A picnic in Emmarentia, tea and cakes at Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, and lastly a trip to a good shisa nyama.
Your favourite Joburg author or favourite Joburg book?
My favourite Joburg author is Miriam Tlali [the first black woman in South Africa to publish a novel, and recipient of the Presidential Award, Ikhamanga Silver].

One song on your Joburg soundtrack that either is about Joburg or makes you think about this city?
Definitely Johannesburg by Africa Express featuring Gruff Rhys, Morena Leraba, Radio 123, Sibot.

The most memorable meal you have eaten in Joburg?
The Ethiopian platter from Little Addis Café.
Get a taste of traditional Ethiopian cuisine in Joburg at Little Addis Café in Milpark. Photo: Little Addis Café via Instagram.

If you could buy one Joburg building which would it be?
The Cosmopolitan and turn it into a gallery!

If you were the Joburg mayor for one day (average tenure) what would you change?
I would make it absolutely mandatory to pick up litter and turn in recyclables.

Favourite Joburg label, and why?
Wanda Lephoto. His works are quintessentially South African and reference many prominent South African iconography.

What makes someone a Joburger?
How they joke and how they jol.
Designer Wanda Lephoto explores merging African cultures, traditions, and identities. Photo: Wanda Lephoto via Instagram. In the photo is Lunetta Bartz.

What do you love most about Joburg?
The people.

What do you least like about Joburg?
How far everything is from everything. I do wish Joburg was a more walkable city.

Your number-one tip for a first-time visitor to Joburg?
Guard your phone and don't be afraid to make friends.
Cocktails at the watering hole that is The Royale in Craighall Park always go down a treat. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

One Joburg personality whom you would honour with the freedom of the city if you could, and why?
Nelson Mandela, I think we'd have a lot to talk about.

The perfect weekend in Joburg includes...
Gallery hopping on a Saturday morning, followed by lunch in Parkhurst and a drink at The Royale.

Three words that describe this city
Diverse, big, and fun.

Check out some of our previous #MyJoburg interviews for more insights into the city:

#MyJoburg with  Elroy Fillis-Bell, CEO of Joburg Ballet
#MyJoburg with Nobantu Shabangu, couchsurfer and hiker
#MyJoburg with Tšepang Molisana, oenophile and property developer

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For all the latest news of what to do around Joburg, keep up to date with our weekly events and exhibitions guides.



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