Lifestyle pro­file – Nom­pumelelo Ngoma

Award-win­ning cre­ative NOM­PUMELELO NGOMA, 33, uses can­vas to ques­tion the role of black women in tra­di­tion.

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Nom­pumelelo Ngoma is not your every­day artist. Her work has a unique voice – it ques­tions a myr­iad of stereo­types and con­for­mi­ties that sur­round women. In­spired by He­len Se­bidi – a do­mes­tic worker who did art pri­vately dur­ing the apartheid years with no train­ing but per­se­vered to make it work for her – the Soweto-born artist says her fo­cus is women’s is­sues and wants to give them a voice.

“When I do my pieces I look at how pa­tri­archy has mod­elled ideas about women. I’d like to change that as an artist,” she adds that her work aims to cre­ate dia­logue around top­ics that are nor­mally shied away from, like ilobolo and other gen­der dy­nam­ics. “In 2010 I got mar­ried and en­tered a space I’d never been in be­fore. It was a new me, a dif­fer­ent life I had to fit into. My work re­flects the thoughts I had then, and tries to break that and other as­pects of women’s is­sues.”

A some­what tur­bu­lent child­hood in the town­ship left her adapt­able and with a keen knowl­edge of life there and its peo­ple. “I had a no­madic child­hood, mov­ing around a lot af­ter my par­ents’ mar­riage ended. I stayed with rel­a­tives and adapted un­til when we had our own home. That hap­pened when I was in al­ready in ma­tric!”

Nom­pumelelo dis­cov­ered her tal­ent for draw­ing at an early age and knew she had to pur­sue it. “I was sure that af­ter ma­tric I’d fol­low in He­len’s foot­steps and do art. I love ex­press­ing my­self in terms of draw­ing, paint­ing, and other dif­fer­ent medi­ums,” she pas­sion­ately ex­plains.

Her work has been recog­nised with the es­teemed Cas­sirer Welz Award in 2016 and she re­ceived a res­i­dency at the pres­ti­gious Bag Fac­tory Artists’ Stu­dios in New­town, Joburg. “It was such an hon­our to be given me the op­por­tu­nity to de­fine and ex­press my­self to the art in­dus­try and so­ci­ety.” The 33-yearold’s first solo ex­hi­bi­tion, Thula Mfazi, show­cased her work at the high­lyesteemed Ever­ard Read Gallery in Jozi.

“To be at a gallery I’d al­ways as­pired to be in is amaz­ing. The ti­tle piece of my work is a por­trait of a woman wear­ing a doek and car­ry­ing blan­kets on her head. It plays on the mean­ing of ukuthula – keep­ing quiet or tak­ing the weight off your shoul­ders. I de­ci­pher the word to mean strik­ing back as women and tak­ing off the load.”

Now she’s a fully-fledged in­de­pen­dent artist. “I’m on my own, with chal­lenges like fund­ing and find­ing my own stu­dio.” Whatever comes her way though, this is one star that will con­tinue to rise!

HER FAVOURITES MU­SI­CIANS: SIM­PHIWE DANA AND THAN­DISWA MAZWAI BE­CAUSE OF THEIR UNIQUE SOUND. PLACES: ROME IS ONE OF HER MUSES.

BE­LOW: VIS­UAL ARTIST NOM­PUMELELO NGOMA IS SO­CIALLY CON­SCIOUS AND USES ART TO CHAL­LENGE GEN­DER NORMS AND STEREO­TYPES.

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