How does one attempt to describe the depth, beauty and fierce yet subtle expression of a great art? How is anyone able to describe the amazing balance between the intensely gruesome and the oddly beautiful portrayed in artist Nandipha Mntambo’s work? It just leaves you speechless, yet inspired to search deep down, for that passion that makes you special, to secure your niche and stand out.
In her work, Nandipha focuses mainly on the human body, its dynamics and the organic nature of identity, using mainly natural materials and experimenting with sculptures, videos and photography. Her favourite work material is the cow hide, which is often used as a covering for human bodies.
Born in Swaziland, Southern Africa, in 1982, Nandipha Mntambo has since been fascinated with the idea of representation and how to depict an identity.
Interestingly, it wasn’t always art for Nandipha. Growing up, she was hugely interested in Forensic Science, till her real passion beckoned. During her school days, Nandipha responded to this call and had the good fortune of changing her mind about what to study at the University.
She then applied to Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town where she completed her Undergraduate and Masters Studies (with distinction) in June 2007. While there, she came in contact with Stevenson, with whom she built a rewarding relationship and has been working ever since.
In 2011, the young South African became the winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art. In the same year, she won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art in 2011, for which she produced the national travelling exhibition Faena. She has had four solo shows at the Stevenson gallery in Cape Town (2007, 2009, 2012) and Johannesburg (2009) and have held her first European solo exhibition at Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, in 2013.
key group exhibitions include: the 3rd Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Moscow (2012); ARS 11, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (2011); the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010); the 9th Dakar Biennale (2010); Peekaboo: Current South Africa, Tennis Palace Art Museum, Helsinki (2010); Life Less Ordinary: Performance and Display in South African Art, Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, UK (2009); Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography, Bamako, Mali (2009); Beauty and Pleasure in South African Contemporary Art, Stenersen Museum, Oslo (2009); .ZA: Young Art from South Africa, Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena (2008); and Apartheid: The South African Mirror, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona (2008). Mntambo was a Civitella Ranieri Fellow for 2013.
The artist reckons that one of the biggest misconceptions about her work is that it has a Feminist agenda at its core.
“My work was never meant to be a direct exploration of the African Female body. I just happen to be African and female and use my body in my art making process.” She tells Anotherafrica.net
A lady of many parts, Nandipha Mntambo continues to tower, breaking barriers and setting amazing standards.