David Hlongwane was born on 1 January 1963 in the Zwelethemba township of Worcester. He studied at Vuyisile High School, without completing Matric. Looking at books and magazines inspired his first drawings, which he cultivated without formal instruction.
Hlongwane worked as a labourer at Rainbow Chicken Farms in Worcester temporarily, quitting due to the racism and exploitation he experienced. He did not seek another job as a labourer or additional formal education, seeking to avoid the oppressive bureaucracy he saw in these systems. The art schools where he sought admission rejected his applications, so he continued to develop his artistic skills on his own while getting involved in youth organisations in order to help keep young people off the streets.
>In 1984 he took a welding course at Kmetcon Welding School. Around the same time he learned about the Community Arts Project (CAP) while reading the community newspaper Grassroots>. Hlongwane applied to participate, and CAP organiser Derek Joubert invited him to start a full-time course at CAP in Woodstock, Cape Town, beginning January 1985. While there he worked with Robert Zithulele Siwanqaza, Sophie Peterse, Eunice Sefako, Cameroon Voyiya, Billy Mandindi and Andile Siyo.
In 1985 Hlongwane’s brother was killed in a demonstration, allegedly by police. Hlongwane himself was arrested several times. Despite this and the difficulties of travelling to the CAP facilities every day amidst the violence and chaos afflicting the country, Hlongwane continued attending CAP workshops. He worked primarily on ceramic sculptures, cartoons and graphic prints in this period, largely eschewing paintings. He cited Kathe Kollwitz and Manfred Zylla as major influences.
In 1988 Hlongwane won a bursary to study in Italy, going on to complete a four-year course at the Academia di Belle Arte in Perugia. In the time since, he has exhibited in shows around the world, completed sculptural commissions, won the 1995Mayibuye Centre Sculpture Competition, and taught art to young people in prisons.
Williamson, S. (1989) Resistance Art in South Africa. David Philip Publishers, Cape Town. Available on Google Books. [Accessed 23 January 2015]| De Jager, E.J. (1992) Images of Man: Contemporary South African Black Art and Artists, Fort Hare University Press, Alice.| Younge, G. (1988) Art of the South African Townships,Rizzoli, New York.|Siwanqaza, R.Z., ‘David Hlongwane: His Life and Art,’ 1988, Staffrider, vol. 7, no. 2 1988, pp. 18-22. Available online at www.disa.ukzn.ac.za. [Accessed 23 January 2015]|The Cape Gallery, ‘David "Uhuru" (meaning Freedom) Hlongwane Born 1963’, Available at www.capegallery.co.za. [Accessed 23 January 2015]