Rhode grew up in South Africa under apartheid rule, and unsurprisingly, his work reflects this through a heavily charged political and social stance. When apartheid ended in 1994, Rhode describes his feeling as, “a basic need for creating art as a political act in reclaiming space, to repositioning identity beyond a global periphery.”
Robin Rhode’s was one of two “colored” students in art school, a term commonly used for mixed races under apartheid. As such, he had a hard time dealing with authority and rejected traditional norms in search of new forms of expression. He would eventually find this form in a high school rite of passage for boys, where the older students would steal chalk in order to draw objects of desire on the bathroom walls.
“We’d force the younger kids into the toilet and force them to interact with the drawing. It was a form of initiation into the high school subculture.” – Robin Rhode
Having experienced both sides of the hazing ritual, he found the process entertaining and similar to a cycle of evolution. It would eventually come to be the core identity behind Rhode’s work.