(b. 1943 Marapyane, South Africa)

Mmakgabo Mmapula Helen Sebidi was born in 1943 in Marapyane (Skilpadfontein), in the Hammanskraal area of the Northern Transvaal. As her mother was working in the city for much of her childhood, she grew up with her grandmother, who taught her the values that would guide and sustain her life. This includes the channelling of spirit back into the world through hard work, the commitment of the self to the community, but most of all through acts of creativity – whether this be cooking, making mud walls, creating murals, making pots and calabashes, weaving, beading, dress-making, drawing or painting. For Mmakgabo Sebidi, the artist starts from a root of pain and conflict and works her way towards the redemption of both herself and those around her through the act of making. The creator becomes invisible during this process and is the channel through which the spirit world flows. The artwork can be seen as the trace of this redemptive journey.  

Mmakgabo spent much of her young adult life as a domestic worker in Johannesburg. She spent her spare time making dresses and knitting. When a German employer starting painting, Mmakgabo expressed an interest in painting herself and was given her first set of oil paints. She then sought lessons and joined the art classes of John Koenakeefe Mohl before returning to Marapyane to look after her ailing grandmother. The following decade would see her developing and refining her art in the rural areas, returning to Johannesburg only to exhibit her work – first at Zoo Lake, then at the Art Foundation and finally the Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg – and to buy more materials. Through the Art Foundation, Mmakgabo won a Fulbright Scholarship, which led to a tour of America, where she met up with the ‘stolen people’ (African Americans), ‘the people whose land was taken from them (Native Americans) and those who work the land (farmers and agriculturists). She concluded that we have far more in common than whatever separates us and that all the lessons she has needed in her life were available to her through the teachings of her grandmother and her community. That same year she also won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award.

Mmakgabo is without question an inspiration and pioneer to the younger generation of South African artists. Working predominantly in pastel, acrylic and oil paint, she has developed a distinct style that uses vibrant juxtaposed colour, distorted perspectives, human and animal figures, dream images – often in a pointillist, stippled style of pastel or paint application. More recently she has returned to sculpting in clay and this exhibition features the first of her sculptures ever to be cast in bronze.

Today Mmakgabo Sebidi is based in Johannesburg, where she continues to make work and spend much of her spare time helping to inspire and encourage the younger generation – especially of artists. She is represented by the Everard Read and CIRCA galleries in Johannesburg, Cape Town and London.




Staring Straight to the Future, online exhibition, Everard Read, UK & South Africa 

The Portrait Show, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa


Mellon Foundation Residency exhibition, Javett-UP, Pretoria, South Africa


Batlhaping Ba Re!, solo, Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South AFrica 

Crossing the Night, group exhibition, Mexico

Tears of Africa, solo, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa 

Investec Cape Town Art Fair, with Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa


Johannesburg Art Fair, Solo Stand 

A Painting Today, group exhibition, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa


The Quiet Violence of Dreams, group exhibition, Stevenson Gallery CT & JHB, South Africa

Solo Show, Everard Read Johannesburg    

Group Show, Fundação Bienal de São Paulo 


Centenary Exhibition, group show, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa


Great South African Nude Exhibition, group show, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa 


Joburg Art Fair with Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa


Telkom exhibition, South Africa


Visible Visions, group travelling exhibition, Hagen, Essen, Berlin, Osnabrück (Germany); Tilburg (Netherlands)


The artificial shelter foundation, solo exhibition, Tilburg, Netherlands


Art in the context of the World Earth Summit on sustainable development

World Women, Visible Visions from International Woman, group travelling exhibition, opened in Johannesburg, South Africa

International world summit exhibition, Tilburg, Netherlands

Judging of Sasol competition

Judging of competition at Wits University


The Markers exhibition, Venice Biennale, Italy

Land, group exhibition, Unisa Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa


Axis Gallery, New York, USA

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Krannert Art Museum & Kinkead Pavilion, USA


Human Rights Institute Exhibition, National Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa

Changing Screens Exhibition, The Firs, Rosebank, South Africa 

Judging of competition at Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa


Thupelo Art workshop and exhibition, Cape Town, South Africa

Biennale in Museum Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa

Finders Keepers, Sunday Times, Iziko SA National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

The Laager included in a group exhibition, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Santiago, Chile

Centre of the Arts, Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, USA

South Africa’s Finest Painters, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa 

Common and Uncommon Ground, South African Art to Atlanta, City Gallery East, Atlanta,Georgia, USA

Solo Exhibition, London, UK

Solo Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany


Six Women from Southern Africa, Exhibition in Lisbon, Portugal

Civic Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa


Venice Biennale, Italy

Graphics Exhibition, Jyväskylä, Finland; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Il Croce Del Sud, Rome, Italy

African Hei-ti-@e, Uranienborgveien, Norway

Women From Africa, Savannah Gallery of Modern Art, Bethnal Green, London, Uk

Standard Bank Young Artists Award Winners Exhibition, Zimbabwe National Gallery, Harare, Zimbabwe


Future Realms, two person exhibition, The Afrika Futuristic Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

Art from South Africa, Iziko SA National Gallery, Cape Town

Standard Bank Young Artists Award Winners exhibition, Zimbabwe National Gallery, Harare, Zimbabwe

Three person show with Lucky Sibiya and Noria Mabasa, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa 


A Grain of Wheat, group exhibition, Art Gallery of the Commonwealth Institute, London, UK

Standard Bank Young Artists Award winners Exhibition, Namibia

The Challenge to Colonization, group exhibition, 4th Havana Biennial, Cuba  


Art from South Africa Exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, UK

Mozambican National Gallery

Zabalaza Festival, group show as part of South African Festival, Institute of 

Contemporary Arts, London, UK


Ten Years of Collecting, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa 

Cape Town Triennial, toured SA



Detainees' Parents Support Committee - 100 artists protested against detention without trial 

The Neglected Tradition, Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa

Art Images in Southern Africa, group show, Stockholm, Sweden

SA Potters Association


Vita Art Now, Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Delfiri/FUBA Creative Quest Exhibition, FUBA

FUBA (Seven Woman Artists)

Thupelo Workshop exhibition, toured to Johannesburg Art Foundation and NSA Gallery, Durban, South Africa

Standard Bank National Drawing Competition, toured SA


solo exhibition, FUBA, Johannesburg, South Africa

Art for Alexandra, Sotheby's, Johannesburg, South Africa

Thupelo Workshop Exhibition, Johannesburg Art Foundation, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa 


Brush and Chisel Club, Johannesburg, South Africa


Washington, USA (organized by a private collector)

Standard Bank National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown, resulted in a touring solo show, visiting museums and galleries, ending in Namibia in 1991

1977 - 88

Artists under the Sun, Johannesburg, South Africa



Africana Museum, Johannesburg 

Art Workshop, London

Sasol Collection

Unisa, Pretoria 

University of Bophuthatswana, Mafikeng

Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg

Johannesburg Art Gallery

Centre for Africa Studies, University of Cape Town

South African National Gallery

1820 Settlers Foundation  

Standard Bank Collection

Pretoria Art Museum

The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington 

University of the Witwatersrand  

Price Forbes 

Federated Insurance Co.

Department of Education and Training

Galerie Adriana Schmidt 

S.A. Perm 

University of Wolverhampton 

Roque Investments 

ABSA Bank 

World Bank

South African Broadcasting Corporation


First National Bank 

S.A. Permanent Bank

Government of Australia 

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, New York USA

Aboriginal Art Museum, Australia



2005   Nomination for ILKSSA: National Heritage Council, National Living Treasure Award

2004 Award of the order of Ikhamanga Silver Award given by the Presidency, the Republic of South Africa

2002  Nomination for the Human Sciences Research Council Living Treasure Award

1990 Vita Fine Art Award

1989 Fulbright Scholarship – World Exhibition New York    

 Standard Bank Young Artist Award 

1988 Star Woman of the Year finalist