Ofentse Letebele (King Debs) (34) - Cape Town Merit Winner

Congratulations on being announced as one of the 7 winners in the Sasol New Signatures Competition 2023   

Tell us what your reaction was when you received the news.


When I received the news, I was truly humble and grateful. This has been a long career milestone. I have also kept the news to myself and haven't told anyone as I would like to wait for the final announcement. I catch myself romanticising about the competition and dreaming of being chosen as the overall winner, and how life-changing that would be.

Is this the first time you have entered the competition? If so why and if not how many times and why is this competition an important one for you?

This is not the first time, it was the second entry. The reason is that I have always wanted this particular industry accolade. This competition is crucial because it gives one an opportunity to be inducted into the arts industry in a very significant way. This award and recognition comes with the understanding of the artist's own praxis, and professional acumen that can springboard the artist in the desired career trajectory.

Tell us a little about your artistic journey up until the point of entering Sasol New Signatures 2023?  

My journey as an artist began in Pretoria, with my first exhibition at a commercial gallery in 2011. Since then I have been working with different galleries, curators and institutions nationally and internationally to cement my practice in the contemporary art discourse at large. At this moment, I am part of a group exhibition in Brooklyn New York, with some of the great artists from around the country. The journey has mostly been about learning the industry and understanding my position as an artist.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career as an artist to date? 

My biggest influence has been the South African contemporary scene art at large, mainly how it has been able to produce such amazing artists pre and post the country's democracy. I have always wanted to be part of that legacy and honour those that have been making art before my time, and connect with my contemporaries in my time while painting new lanes for future legacies.

Tell us a little about why you created the piece you submitted? 

I believe that the work that I created deserved to be shared on a platform that was beyond my reach. No one in the world has seen the work that I submitted outside of the judges, and I believe this submission would offer a grand reveal.  I believed that part of creating is sharing the work, and this competition allowed for a very exclusive reveal of the work that I have been working on lately.


Tell us about your preferred medium/s ...and why? 

My preferred medium is sculptural work.  I believe it has a unique resonance for me as an artist. The three-dimensionality of the work offers a unique perspective as compared to flat, 2D dimensional work. The sculptural work is also more mentally and physically demanding, and I prefer working with this medium because it forces me to outgrow my comfort zone. I also believe that this medium is more visually interesting to the viewer and connects to spaces in a very dynamic way.

When people view your work – what reaction/response  are you hoping to create? 

When people view my work, I’m hoping they get to understand that the work was created from an authentic place.  I hope they get to feel welcome to be curious about the work enough to ask themselves questions about it, and what it means to them.

Why do you think your work was chosen as a top 7?

I believe my work was chosen as the top 7 because I feel the competition was looking for something new, ‘unbound’, something different and expressive that they may not have seen before. And furthermore, I believe there is a professional excursion in my work that was picked up by the judges. More than that,  my artwork has a sense of resolution in terms of research and development that the judges may have picked up on. I feel I was able to communicate my work in a way that was understandable for the judges to evaluate in a fare manner.

Which South African artists do you admire and why?

I admire Dumile Feni because his work was ahead of his time, even though it was very relevant at the time of creation. I appreciate the multi-disciplinary efforts in his work. Being a black artist during apartheid must have required way more from an individual, and I have the utmost respect for him, and his contemporaries for paving the way for us.

I also admire Lady Skollie as an artist. Her journey as an artist has been remarkable to experience and witness. It’s really been beautiful to see her work grow and develop to where it is now, and how she has remained true to her core and as an artist while continuing to thrive.  

Anything else you would like to add?

I would say thank you to the judges for considering my work up to this point. It is truly an honour to make it this far in such a prestigious competition.