Byron Fredericks is a painter who uses color and language to navigate the complexity of cultural identities, and his own positioning with his identity in the Cape region of South Africa. His work is both metamorphic and visually charged with symbols of the Afrikaans language and local gangs symbols known as “Chappies.” Afrikaans is a creole language that was adopted in the Cape upon the arrival of the Dutch colonizers. Afrikaans was used by the Dutch colonists, Malay and South East Asian slaves that were brought to the Cape.


This dialect segued into a more digressive language known as a Cape Colored dialect. This was exclusively used only by the people of color and still is. Fredericks uses this language in broad brush strokes in words and phrases that covers the surface with metaphorical meaning. His rough and gestural use of playful color and mark casts a poignant and suggestive backdrop. He articulates ideas of ownership, identity crisis and pride. He is deliberate in skewing and distorting the letters in contrast to how the mother tongue language had been distorted and repossessed. This is illustrated in looselines that run across the pictorial composition. The colors are as equally as vibrant as the ambiguity of the Afrikaans phrases.


He aggressively colonises a page filled with bold symbols and imagery of gang related chappies. He focuses on how gang signs and chappies are used in prisons throughout the Cape. A secret language only used by members of the Numbers gangs called: The Sabela. A language that is visually charged with black ink poked and sticked into skin of color. He adopts this imagery and transforms the symbolism to form a new visual language of expression. His references the actions of being stuck and poked in the use of gauging mark into wet paint.


This creates a permanent indentation of disposition within the context of owning a language or symbol. Fredericks creates an ideology on how a creole language can change the perception of a particular group. He creates a metaphoric pictorial space in which he is in control of his own language. One that he holds all the secrets too. Imagery of faces, phrases, numbers and primal drawings are all representative of the complexities of the racialized realities we live in. The work encompasses satirical remarks and loose expressions of color that are representative to racial complexities within in his local of South Africa.



Artist Statement 
b.1992 Cape Town, South Africa. Lives and works in New York.