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