Bachelor of Fine Arts student, Oratile ‘Papi’ Konopi takes over the matrix graffiti wall with the Ene series.  

FOURTH-YEAR Bachelor of Fine Arts student Oratile ‘Papi’ Konopi takes visual arts to a whole other level with his work displayed on the graffiti wall at the Matrix.

Popularly known as Papi, a name dear to him, the visual artist explains how the township where he comes from and ‘positionality’ contributes to the making of his work.

Konopi explains that he moves around a lot and those different spaces influence his work.

His journey with art began at a tender age, yet with practice he began to perfect his craft.

He started his project/series Ene, a Setswana name for him and her, when he came to Wits. Papi told Wits Vuvuzela how he, “wanted to find a way to creatively express myself through a way to engage with people without having to speak, instead having the work speak to people without me having to say”.

Initially Ene began as a project that looked at the body and objects and representations of masculinities, but as the artist began to study African languages, African literature and black feminisms, his work took a different direction.

“The series initially started with the meaning of Him but I realised the rigidness of Him and was confronted with the reality of the problematics of language and how it then begins to limit the work itself, because the work could be doing a lot more. But the title is limiting,” Konopi says.

In June last year, the 21-year-old had a solo performative exhibition at The Point of Order in Braamfontein, featuring hip hop artist Gyre.

In this piece, the two creatives confront the entanglement of masculinities by enmeshing themselves in blue thread. The blue thread, Konopi says, “is a way to try and bring that metaphor across of this thing that could seemingly be broken, not being broken and allowing it in a sense to exist and hold up these kinds of representations”.

He also did a poster version of the Ene series which quoted short phrases from a variety of songs and displayed these at the Bree Taxi Rank.

This he saw as a way to tease out intricacies of how we relate.

Konopi was the runner-up for last year’s Wits Young Artist of the Year award for a cover art piece for Gyre’s album. Now his Ene series features on the Matrix graffiti wall and will continue to grow.

“There is no final destination for the work because it is not enough, each part takes its own tangent; they all have their own end points in amongst people,” he explains.

FEATURED IMAGE: This week’s cool kid on campus; Oratile ‘Papi’ Konopi. Photo: Jabulile Mbatha


Cool Kid: Tlotlo Motwane, March 2019

Cool kid: Addai-yaw ‘Yaw Majesty’ Coker, February 2019

Cool Kid: Thabo Moagi, October 2019