SA artist's painting of four black people in toaster decried as racist in UK

25 October 2019 - 13:23 By IAVAN PIJOOS
Artist Khaya Sineyile shared this photo on Facebook on December 24 2017. The painting was chosen for display at a new Nando's outlet in the UK - and caused an outcry.
Artist Khaya Sineyile shared this photo on Facebook on December 24 2017. The painting was chosen for display at a new Nando's outlet in the UK - and caused an outcry.
Image: Khaya Sineyile via Facebook

Nando's has taken down a painting by a black SA artist at one of their restaurants in the UK, due to complaints from customers.   

The BirminghamLive quoted one of the customers, Wayne Yafai, as saying he was offended by the artwork. "I am mixed race, half Arabic and half English," he told the newspaper. "I took a picture of the painting and showed it to my black friends. They were really offended by it and felt it was racist..."

Created by Khaya Sineyile, the painting depicts four black people in a toaster. It is titled 'A half a loaf is better than none' and is dated 2017.

Sineyile is an artist from New Crossroads in Nyanga who attended the Arts and Media Centre (AMAC) from 2004 and 2005 and was selected as a residency artist at Greatmore Studios in 2009.

His work was selected for display at the revamped Nando's HQ in downtown Johannesburg in 2015 and the following year he was invited to its Jika Jika exhibition in Qatar.

Sineyile could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

Former director of the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg, Lorna Ferguson, told TimesLIVE the piece is actually a quirky protest artwork commenting on race.

"South Africans are used to having open talks around race and racism, this translates into our artwork. We are used to seeing protest work," she said.

"This piece does not mean that black people should be toasted, instead it can be interpreted as black people have been toasted by racism and oppression."

Ferguson added, "Of course there are many ways to interpret art… The background is a total juxtaposition which creates a quirky piece."

Nando's launched its Art Initiative in 2001 when it called for applications, to "share Mzansi’s art, design and music talents with the world".

The Nando's art collection now has more than 21,300 pieces, according to its website.

Its developmental programmes enable more than 320 artists to pursue full-time artistic careers, according to 10and5.com.

Nando's UK CEO Colin Hill has apologised on LinkedIn to a customer who contacted him directly, according to the Birmingham newspaper. Hill reportedly indicated they had identified customers' potential interpretation of the artwork as a concern and it should not been on open display.

Chief marketing officer at Nando's, Doug Place, told TimesLIVE Sineyile’s art was used to “comment on the far-reaching effects of social inequality” in South Africa.

“Because the nuances of the social context which inspired this particular piece of art have been misunderstood and inadvertently caused offence, Nando’s UK has subsequently removed the artwork from this restaurant.”

The artwork is part of a larger body of work which can be seen here.


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