Michael Paul Sibisi was born in Umkhumbane, Durban on 23 September 1948. He went to Chesterville Secondary School where he completed Standard 9 in 1965. He proceeded to study for teaching at Adams Teachers’ Training College. His talent was uncovered by his teacher, Innocent Masondo. As there were no art classes at Adams College, he acted on the advice of Masondo and applied to study at Ndaleni Educational Training School under Lorna Peirson, with financial assistance provided by the Bantu Education Bursary.
After completing his studies, he taught art at Appelsbosch Training College, Oswatini from 1969 to 1971. Between 1973 and 1974, he was funded by a bursary from the SA Institute of Race Relations in Durban to study at Rorke’s Drift. He was the winner of the Graphic Art Award at the Black Expo of 1973. In 1974, he held a joint exhibition at the NSA Gallery, Durban, with Vuminkosi Zulu. From 1975 to mid-1977 he taught at Kwathambo Combined School, near Amanzimtoti and then moved to Mzuvele High School in KwaMashu where he still teaches (Art, English and Guidance).
In 1984, Sibisi received an Operation Crossroads Africa grant which enabled him to visit the USA. In 1987, he spent six months in Britain at Fircraft College in Birmingham studying art education and graphic techniques. Sibisi is involved in setting up cultural art workshops in KwaZulu-Natal.
Sibisi continues to inspire and guide many young artists who aspire to make it in the tricky world of art. When he taught art at Mzuvele High School, he immersed himself in the everyday experiences of his learners in order to discover many hidden talents who had to be nurtured and exposed. Among many art learners who benefited from the passionate teaching of Sibisi are Sipho Mdanda and Themba Siwela. In 2011, Sibisi was the most senior, established artist who was part of the ‘Who Am I… Ngingubani?’ Heritage project, which culminated in a show that was opened at the Durban Art Gallery in September. The mentorship role that he played among the youth and other inexperienced artists further enhanced their artistic consciousness – an urge to depict an inner world which cannot be described in spoken or written words.
This account shows Sibisi’s contribution towards the development of creative culture not only in Durban, but in the country at large. Sibisi’s work is represented in the Campbell Collections of the University of Natal, the collections of the Durban Art Gallery, the Tatham Art Gallery and the Universities of Fort Hare and Zululand.
Unlike many academically qualified artists, Michael Paul Sibisi has continued producing and exhibiting his art, inspiring young, up-and-coming artists who have now enriched the cultural landscape of South Africa.