Tommy was born in Soweto in May 1963.

From 1968-79 he studied at Kutlwanong School for the Deaf.

Thereafter, he studied at FUBA Johannesburg and at Bill Ainslie’s studio. In 1985 he was awarded the Santam Bursary for Fine Arts.

He has subsequently received many important awards, including the Volkskas Atelier Merit Prize, the Sol Plaatjies Graphic Art Award, the Excelsior Award, the Vita Art Now Award and, in 1992, the Standard Bank Young Artists Award.

He has exhibited widely in South Africa and overseas. His work is included in the collections of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the SA. National Gallery, UNISA, the University of the Witwatersrand, the Sasol Art Collection, the Pretoria Art Museum, the Durban Art Museum and private and corporate collections internationally.

The seeming simplicity of the scenes depicted by Tommy Motswai is misleading. Motswai’s superb visual memory, enables him to record details about people, places and events which provide us with the artists documentary of a period from the early 1980s to the present. His colourful, bold and often naive images record the subtleties and humor found within the relationship of a multi-cultural and economically divided South Africa. Yet each of Motswai’s works has a powerful and positive sense of energy and passion for South Africa’s people.

Motswai’s work presents a highly personal recording of situations in the changing political and social environment in a country, which the artist loves.



  • 1985 Santam Bursary
  • 1987 Volkskas Atelier Merit Prize
  • 1986 Excelsior Award
  • 1987 Vita Art Now Award (First quarter winner)
  • 1992 Standard Bank Young Artists Award.


  • Durban Art Gallery
  • Johannesburg Art Gallery
  • Pretoria Art Museum
  • Standard Bank Corporate Collection
  • South African National Gallery, Cape Town
  • Santam
  • Sasol
  • ABSA Bank
  • University of South Africa, Pretoria
  • University of the Witwatersrand


Tommy Motswai.” Cherie DeVilliers Gallery. 22 June 2005. 22 Nov. 2005