Misheck Masamvu, Gatekeepers (2016). Oil on canvas, 175 x 453 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, Cape Town.
ART AFRICA: So let's start from the beginning. Please tell us a bit about your childhood? Were you an only child?
Misheck Masamvu: No, I was born in a family of what was meant to be six siblings, six children, but then my twin died. So there were five that survived. I'm the only boy. I grew up in a family with girls. It wasn't easy, as I was quite frail. When my twin sister was born they didn't have the technology to know that my mother was pregnant with twins. I think they were like 'Guys, it's time to clean up,' and I came out, so I looked at myself as maybe a renewable energy, some part of the garbage or something [laughs].
My father had been hoping to have a son, and I was that frail, fragile little boy. They weren't really certain whether I was going to make it, so as a baby there was that tendency to be overprotective. That feeling from my parents was also pushed onto my sisters. Whenever I would want to go and play with other children there was always that thing, like 'Hey, if you get injured...' It was a menace, you know. Last year I was told a story by one of my peers that because of my sisters I was the strongest. Nobody would pick fights with me because they were quite loud. So that's me as a small boy, and still now.