Trash Can Boys

David Mbele | 1940-2010

Sale price R 5,999.00 Regular price R 12,500.00

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David Mbele 1940-2010

“Trash Can Boys”, Charcoal
d. 1968, 78 x 64cm

Valuation R 12,500.00
* Collector's item of historical and cultural value 


David Mbele 1940-2010 - The Gentle Giant ...

I first met Dave in 1984 at age 16, working part-time in the warehouse of my late father's, Fine Art & Antique Auction rooms, as the years passed by we became close friends, and almost 10 years after we met, he was one of the first black artists from Soweto whose work I exhibited in my own gallery and auction room "Winstons Fine Art" which opened its doors in Rosebank, Johannesburg, South Africa in 1996.

A glimpse from the past 1968...
The work hereunder titled "Trash Can Boys", dated 1968, 72 x 58cm, completed using charcoal on paper, is one of the earliest works by Dave that we have archived. In 1968 Dave was 26 years old living in the vibrant African cultural melting pot of Soweto. The hustle and bustle fascinated the sensitive young man as he observed the people in his neighbourhood going about their daily lives and activities. Many of these daily activities and chores were "new" to the growing urbanized black population of Soweto and were not part of their tribal life in the far-off rural villages where they came from.
One of these chores was the daily emptying of trash cans into the garbage trucks making their way through the streets of Soweto in the early morning hours. The "Trash Can Boys", was a group of teenage boys in the neighborhood who saw an opportunity to make some money for themselves. They would get up in the early morning hours running ahead of the garbage trucks snaking their way through the neighborhoods and haul the galvanized steel trash cans from the backyards of the homes, emptying them into the backs of the slow-moving trucks. The grateful homeowners could sleep another hour or two before commuting to Johannesburg and the surrounding areas where they were employed, without having to get up and do this chore. They would pay the “Trash Can Boys” a weekly wage for their services on Saturday mornings when they came knocking for it, dressed up for the occasion in their fanciest outfits, with shoes shining like mirrors, smiling from ear to ear. It was their custom to proudly show off the fruits of their labour walking to the local corner store where they would buy an ice-cold glass bottle of Coke-a-Cola sipping on it outside on the veranda, where everyone could see them, as they rewarded themselves for their hard work. What was left of their earnings, which was but a few cents, they would give to their mothers to contribute towards the family's upkeep. David himself was a “Trash Can Boy” ….


David is one of the artists making up the group of intellectual leaders within the Soweto School of Art movement known as the Top Ten Group.  The Top Ten formed part of the larger leadership group within the Soweto School of Art 1960-2010, art movement which comprises Solomon Sekhaelelo | 1937 ~, Leonard Matsoso | 1949 - 2010, Matin Tose | 1959 - 2004, and Hargreaves Ntukwana | 1938 - 1999. 
The "Big Five" group within the Soweto School of Art 1960-2010 art movement is Winston Saoli 1950 - 1995 |.. Speelman Mahlangu 11958 - 2004 |.. Eli Kobeli 1932 - 1999 |.. Peter Sibeko 1940 - 2013 |.. and Joe Maseko 1938 - 2007 | these five individuals were the intellectual leaders within the Soweto School of Art 1960-2010 art movement and greatly influenced the other artists within the movement.