Zwelidumile Jeremiah Mgxaji, better known as Dumile Feni, is one of the 20th century artists in Africa. He was born in 1942 Worcester, Cape Province and died 17/10/1991 in New York.
Dumile’s mother died when he was only five or six years old and he went to live with relatives in Cape Town until the age of eleven. He then began working for his father, a trader and a preacher, while traveling around, he continued to exercise his childhood passion for carving and drawing.
In the early 1950’s he moved to Johannesburg and began working as an apprentice at the Block and Leo Wald Sculpture, Pottery and Plastics foundry in Jeppe. In 1963 and 1964, while a patient at the Charles Hurwitz South African National Tuberculosis Association (SANTA) Hospital in Johannesburg, Dumile was given some art materials and began his drawing career in earnest. Together with Ephraim Ngatane he decorated numerous walls in the hospital.
Ephraim Ngatane was one of the many tutors who helped develop Dumile Feni’s artistic practice to whom introduced him to the Jubilee Art Centre. There he met with Cecil Skotnes who helped him develop his drawing techniques. He also worked and spent a lot of time with Bill Ainslie. In 1968 Dumile went into exile in London where he lived for many years. In the 1980s he moved to New York where he made a living as a graphic designer. He died in 1991.
He received support from Lionel Abrams, Bill Ainslie and Barney Simon. In 1968 Dumile went into exhile. En route to London he visited Nigeria and China. He was invited by the African Humanities Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles to be the visiting artist in residence during the 1979/80 academic year. He was also a visiting lecturer at the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston. Dumile lived in New York until he died, working on designs for record covers, book illustrations, posters and murals.