Township artist uses art to celebrate unique skin

Written by Zizo Zikali

Vitiligo, albinism and freckles are relatively known as the skin conditions that make affected individuals seem different from their peers resulting to confidence loss and distress, artist Mandilakhe Rolinyathi celebrates their unique skin through artwork with the aim of unsettling stigma.

While Rolinyathi was working on this concept, he interviewed a number of people with skin conditions who felt less beautiful, neglected and discriminated within their communities.

“During the interviews, they explained how they felt about themselves, how they are treated by the community and how their skin conditions affected their daily lives.

Mandilakhe Rolinyathi is an artist that who celebrates unique skin through paintings. Photo: Zizo Zikali/Health-e.

What pierced my heart was the one who said growing up they were compelled to stay to protect their skin that does not have melanin and watch other children playing during hot summer days. Being teased and lonely as no one wanted to be friends with them at school due to their condition was the worst.

Portrait painter

Using dismantled wooden pellets as the surface of his paintings as a symbol of a township from which Rolinyathi hails, the portrait painter said he wanted to focus on their faces and eyes with the aim to allow people to view their beauty through the unique skin.

“The aim of this artwork is to recognize people with skin conditions such as vitiligo, albinism and freckles who form part of our community, to encourage them to embrace their uniqueness and allow their spirits to shine through the artwork”. Rolinyathi said.


Growing up in Mdantsane Township in East London, Rolinyathi said his love for art was inspired by his surroundings, at a young age he owned a cartoon book that he used to draw cartoons.

The Walter Sisulu University Fine Art graduate said his artwork is merely influenced by occurrences in Mdantsane Township, growing up attending local beauty pageants he said he noticed that there were beautiful people who excluded from the pageants but because of their skin tone they were not encouraged nor invited to partake on those events, he started on his drawing board to display the hidden beauty that goes unnoticed because of their uniqueness.

Mandilakhe Rolinyathi’s artworks are currently displayed at Walter Sisulu University art gallery and he is planning on distributing some to national arts competitions.

About the author

Zizo Zikali

Zizo Zikali is our Eastern Cape based citizen journalist who also heads news at Inkonjane Community Radio in Flagstaff. Under her leadership, the news team is receiving recognition from local government and is the defending champion for Alfred Nzo District Municipality Annual Award for Best Innovative Current Affairs Programme. Zizo has over six years experience in community media and worked for organisations such as Voice of Tembisa FM from 2011-2014 and Inkonjane community Radio since 2014. Her educational qualifications include an Advanced Radio Certificate from University of the Witwatersrand obtained in 2016 and a Human Resources Management qualification from the Durban University of Technology obtained in 2008.