Nicholas Hlobo was born in 1975 in Cape Town, and he currently lives and works in Johannesburg. He draws strongly on his Xhosa heritage in his work, exploring traditions and rites of passage and how they are evolving in changing times, as well as themes of industrialization, gender, and sexuality. By appropriating his native heritage and combining it with the journey of his own homosexuality, Hlobo finds his way through a rapidly changing society in which the traditional and the modern frequently collide. Sometimes Hlobo performs with his sculptures, partly dressed as (or in) one of the forms. Many of the materials he uses serve as visual metaphors for an array of cultural phenomena, and his works are not only named after particular ritualistic practices but consciously recall the rich history and tradition of the Xhosa culture. Questions of identity and ethnicity permeate his pieces, and ideas of masculinity and gender are strikingly reflected through the materials with which he works, which include leather, rubber, ribbon, furniture, and domestic found objects.
Hlobo has had solo exhibitions at Locust Projects, Miami (2013), the National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design, Oslo (2011), Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg (2010), Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town (2010), Tate Modern, London (2008), and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, as part of the Momentum series (2008). He has participated in group exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2014–16), Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2014), Museum Arnhem, the Netherlands (2014), the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012), La Triennale 2012, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012), the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), the Liverpool Biennial (2010), and the Guangzhou Triennial, China (2008). He was the Tollman Award winner in 2006, the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art in 2009, and the Rolex Visual Arts Protégé for 2010–11.