James Serole MPHAHLELE



"Since we are on the brink of losing all that was best in African Art and African Tradition, who will take the initiative to retrieve that which has been lost to the West?"

"Traditions have to be passed on to future generations."

James Serole Mphahlele

1st February,1989



The "DIALOGA" series of 25 linocuts (masonite prints) by James Serole MPHAHLELE is about the Closing Ceremony of the Initiation. The name given to this ceremony is "goAloša / goAloga".

The Chief and Indunas of the Pedi tribes in the Northern Transvaal (Lebowa) are the controlling heads of circumcision lodges. They are qualified to conduct traditional initiation schools, but require a permission from the local Magistrate or Government office.

The Chief and the men of the Kraal (Bakgomana ba Mošate) gather in secret and elect the following:

a) Master of the Lodge (Rabadia) and Deputy Master

They are men who know the details of initiation and who are related to the Chief's Kraal or Capital. They will spend days and nights with the initiation until the Closing Ceremony;

b) The Surgeon or Village Doctor;

c) Their Elders who have taken part in and witnessed other initiations. They act as instructors and shepherds.


Closing Ceremony

The Head of each kraal carries a stick with red dyed sheep skins (Hlaba) from the Chief's Kraal to the initiation lodge.

The body of each initiate is smeared with red-ochre, called "Letsoku". The young men are now called "DIALOGA". They put on the "Hlaba" and their elders give them each a stick called "Lekgai".

As soon as the initiation lodge starts burning, set on fire by the medicine man, the young men start running to the village, not being allowed to look back (Mphatho / Moroto).

Upon arriving at the village, the Chief's son leads the Procession, holding the Rod of Honour (Sefoka), all singing songs of victory.

All fathers and the Elders carry wood to make a fire in the Chief's Kraal.

For further details, please read the legends below the appropriate larger images!

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James Serole MPHAHLELE


Biographical Notes

James Serole MPHAHLELE was born at GaMphahlele near Pietersburg (Northern Transvaal) on 19th July, 1954. He was trained as a Primary School teacher at the Sekhukhune College of Education in 1976/77. He studied art at the Ndaleni College of Education, Natal, at Rorke's Drift, Natal and at the Johannesburg Art Foundation during 1983/84.

He held his 1st Solo Show at Gallery 21, Johannesburg, during February, 1989, when he presented the DIALOGA series.

Further details are available on request.


Public and Other Collections


Australian National Gallery (*)

Canberra, Australia

Kauffman Museum, Bethel College

North Newton, Kansas, USA

Kunstsammlung / Kulturstiftung Unterseen

Interlaken, Switzerland

The Haenggi Foundation Inc. (PELMAMA) (*) (refer OAM 2006)

Basel, Switzerland



Ann Bryant Art Gallery

East London, SA

Durban Art Gallery (*)

Durban, SA

Oliewenhuis Art Museum (6 donated in 2006)

Bloemfontein, SA

Pietersburg Art Gallery

Pietersburg, SA

Pretoria Art Museum

Pretoria, SA

Tatham Art Gallery

Pietermaritzburg, SA

University of South Africa (UNISA)

Pretoria, SA

University of Fort Hare (*)

Alice, SA

University of the Witwatersrand

Johannesburg, SA

Dept. of National Education (*)

Pretoria, SA

* These institutions originally acquired a complete set of the DIALOGA series, the other institutions only individual prints.


This page last updated 4th January, 2015

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