The creator Nandipha Mntambo
One of our most extraordinary artists, Nandipha Mntambo, 34, has a string of accolades to her name: the Mellon Meyers Fellowships at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2003 and 2004, Brett Kebble Art Awards Curatorial Fellowship in 2005, WITS/BHP Billiton Fellowship in 2010, and the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art in 2011. That’s not to mention 47 group shows, 15 SA solo shows and exhibitions in Washington DC, New York, Frankfurt and Paris.
And yet, ironically for a creative whose sculpture, photographs, videos and performance art are described as beautiful, provocative and potent, Nandipha didn’t anticipate the extent of her own gifts.
“Growing up in Joburg, I enjoyed making art and my parents encouraged creativity, but I didn’t think I was good at it!” Nandipha explains. “And when it came to university, I couldn’t decide between forensic science and fine art.”
A last-minute decision led to the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art, where her stellar talent was soon so evident that Michael Stevenson, one of SA’S leading gallerists, took a swift interest.
Nandipha’s focus on female identity reflects in multimedia works that incorporate resin, cowhide and mesh. “The animal-human divide fascinates me and I love juxtaposing hide with the female form, using my own body as the mould,” she says. Her internationally acclaimed ‘Transience’ exhibition, for example, included oil paintings, hide sculptures and a video homage to the female bullfighter Marie Sara.
“It’s so easy to separate people into boxes: black, white, European, African. But my interest is the spaces in between all of that,” she says. “My work allows me to explore a global way of the world, a global understanding.”