"In my paintings, I explore the physical, mental and spiritual spaces kept close by personal experiences and stories. I am particularly interested in the notions of meaning, emotions and memories related to humans and animals.” 


With a B Tech in Fine and Applied Art, an Honours degree in Curatorship and currently pursuing a Masters in Art History at Rhodes University, Philiswa Lila is an artist, curator and scholar fascinated by the socially relevant and timely issues of authorship and agency.  


Born in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Philiswa works across disciplines like painting, installation and performance art. Her interests lie in memory histories and theories of personal identities. 


In 2019, Philiswa completed a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France after winning the prestigious Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award in 2018. In the same year Dr Esther Mahlangu selected Philiswa as her ‘artist to watch’ for the 2019 SEED auction.


In 2020, the Absa Gallery hosted her well received solo exhibition titled ‘Skin, Bone, Fire: The First Album’ which then toured to various venues in South Africa in association with Alliance Francaise.


Philiswa explores different mediums to create her artworks including animal skin (sheep, goat and cow), beading, wood, paper, canvas and video. Many of her techniques are linked to forms that will fit bodies or the recording of stories using bodies as archives and traces of personal experiences. She is also influenced by the nuances of language, meaning and experiences of individualism. 


Some of her ongoing projects explore individual experiences as recognisable or familiar narratives to collective frameworks of culture – mainly in isiXhosa but also aware of the interconnectedness of cultures in South Africa.


Philiswa Lila is represented by The Melrose Gallery.