Nandipha Mntambo

Page 1

Standard Bank Young Artist Award 2011

Texts by Ruth Simbao & David Elliott



A Sense of Pause Ruth Simbao interviews Nandipha Mntambo 25

The Silence That No One Talks About David Elliott 33

Works 2004-2011 113

Biography 117

Standard Bank Young Artist Award Touring exhibition & previous winners 120

Credits & acknowledgments

To the unspoken between you and I




Such honest self-reflection has enabled Mntambo to reveal the underbelly of various spectacles: the spectacle of bullfighting, the spectacle of ‘Africanicity’, and the spectacle of the art world. In his book Rite, Drama, Festival, Spectacle, John MacAloon writes the following about spectacle: “In its every aspect – from the etymology of the word, to the metamessage of the frame, to the sensory and symbolic codes it activates, to the behaviours it prescribes – the spectacle is about seeing, sight and oversight.”1 While we easily acknowledge the visual element of spectacle, which derives from the Latin specere, ‘to look’, how often do we consider oversight – the omission of subtleties or realities (whether deliberate or not) that would rob spectacle of its grandeur or hype? In order for the seeing of spectacle to exist, certain things need to remain unseen.

Ruth Simbao interviews Nandipha Mntambo


sense of pause was not what I expected from Nandipha Mntambo. Yet, despite the forceful drive of both her personality and the external interest in her work, what struck me about my conversation with her in Johannesburg in April 2011 was her reflection on quiet, private moments – moments of personal and professional perplexity; moments of acknowledging discomforts that many of us feel but seldom declare. When I asked her how it felt to perform as a bull and a bullfighter, merging animal and human qualities in the video Ukungenisa (2009), her response was, “It was nerve-wracking … psyching myself up before doing it was really difficult.” Reflecting further, she disclosed: “Performing as an animal has been an eye-opener. There are elements of myself that I don’t really understand, don’t necessarily like, don’t know how to handle at the moment, so being able to draw from that experience was interesting.”


Performance theorist Peggy Phelan asserts that the visible is, in fact, defined by the invisible, for “sight … is both imagistic and discursive”, and “the gaze guarantees the failure of seeing”.2 What, then, are our oversights in relation to the typical characteristics of spectacle, which are an emphasis on seeing, an emphasis on large size, a clear-cut distinction between actors and audience, and a dynamic where actors act and audiences get excited?3 What is it that we fail to see? What are the silences? A careful reading of the breathers in Mntambo’s work reveals insight into the quiet, 1

2 3

John J MacAloon, ‘Olympic Games and the Theory of Spectacle in Modern Societies’, in Rite, Drama, Festival, Spectacle: Rehearsals Toward a Theory of Cultural Performance, edited by MacAloon (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1984), 270. Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London: Routledge, 1993), 14-15 MacAloon,‘Olympic Games and the Theory of Spectacle in Modern Societies’, 243



forgotten moments of spectacle – the things overlooked. In her works that explore the art of bullfighting, particularly Ukungenisa and Praça de Touros I-IV (2008), loneliness is exposed despite the flashy exhibitionism of this flamboyant sport, and rather than keeping a distance between actor and audience, Mntambo merges actor, acted-upon and observer in an extraordinary way. It is the private moment of fear, experienced by both the bull and the bullfighter, that Mntambo draws from.



In watching a lot of bullfighting movies and reading a lot about bullfighting, and how fighters prepare for a fight, I have realised it’s very private … and then they have to be prepared for the spectacle. That was interesting to me – this very private act that then becomes an overtly public spectacle. Nandipha Mntambo (2011)

Ukungenisa and Praça de Touros I-IV were shot in a deserted bullfighting arena in Mozambique, which was a Portuguese colony. The once-impressive concrete structure is now dilapidated, and grandstands are devoid of noise and excitement. In these works, the bullfighter, or matador, meditatively enters what Mntambo calls a solemn ritual of dressing before the fight. The matador’s uniform – traje de luces, or suit of lights – is usually worn by men, for very few female bullfighters exist worldwide. Mntambo, however, merges male and female qualities in these and other works. In the dance performed in Mntambo’s video Paso Doble (2011), which is linked to the bullfighting spectacle, traditionally the male dancer represents the matador, while his female partner represents, through her dance, either the matador’s shadow, his cape, or the bull itself. The term ‘paso doble’ also refers to music – the music that usually accompanies the matador into the stadium and the performance of his final passes (faena). Through Mntambo’s concentrated focus on the shadows of the dancers in the Paso Doble




video, the artist converges the two dancers (who are both female), recalling her earlier fusion of the characteristics of the matador, the bull and the audience in Ukungenisa. In Ukungenisa, the figure paws the ground, like an agitated bull raising dust, and stares sternly ahead, concentrating on both killing, which is the role of the matador, and trying not to be killed, reflecting the instinct of the bull. In the photographs Praça de Touros II and III, the lonely figure in the middle of the hollow stadium waves a red cape, casting solid shadows on the ground. While both the cape and the shadow are performed by a single dancer in Paso Doble, which literally means ‘double step’, Mntambo plays with multiple forms of doubling where male folds into female, and bull, matador and observers dance together.

something that’s not really used by anyone anymore. It’s abandoned. It’s this building that was part of so much of Mozambican life at one stage, and now it just isn’t anymore. In some ways it is a kind of by-product. When I make my work, people don’t get to see the process, so this space was sort of the after-effect as well. It’s something I didn’t experience in its heyday. I am only experiencing the remnants or the crumbs of [the space].

When you were in Portugal, what sort of research did you do specifically in relation to the bullfighting costume? Did you make any changes considering the fact that you are a woman wearing a costume designed for men? Everything that I do is an adaptation; it’s something that I mould to fit what I want. So the bullfighter’s costume is based on the typical

When I look at the video Ukungenisa and the photographs Praça de Touros I-IV, what strikes me as very powerful is the concept of space. Particularly in the triptych Praça de Touros IV, the emptiness of the architectural space is very distinct. A lonely figure stands out starkly against the vacant architecture – epitomised by the crowdless arena grandstands – in a very powerful way. Can you say something about your experience of working in that space, especially considering the fact that this space, a bullfighting ring, was a space of spectacle for a large crowd? Now you stand all alone in this deserted space. RUTH SIMBAO


What I found amazing

about that building is that it is such a loud yet quiet space. It’s very public but, in my experience of it, very private as well. It’s become

male costume, and I try to work with cowhide so it becomes more like a fabric … building in folds, making layers, trying to reflect the sequins and adornment and everything that is on a bullfighter’s outfit … I use cowhide to reference those elements that aren’t there. In watching a lot of bullfighting movies and reading a lot about bullfighting, and how fighters prepare for a fight, it’s very private … and then they have to be prepared for the spectacle. That was interesting to me – this very private act that then becomes an overtly public spectacle.

There is an interesting contrast that one sees in these works. In the way you perform you create a sense of a crowd – the excitement and the energy – but in the still photographs especially, the figure looks very lonely. It’s very private and quiet. This contrasts sharply to the concept of spectacle.



I was in Portugal last June during the World Cup, and in Lisbon they screened the soccer inside a bullfighting stadium. It is interesting to compare the spectacle of bullfighting to the spectacle of the World Cup, to compare the bullfighting arena to the soccer stadium. When the soccer was screened in the bullfighting ring, there was one crowd watching the spectacle of another crowd. Televised spectacle, of course, is mediated for the watching of television often takes place in a private space, but in this case it occurred in an architectural space of spectacle.

the bull? How did your choreographer get you into the role of being a bull, an animal? I made him watch the bullfights I recorded when I was in Portugal and we watched the Spanish movie Talk to Her a lot. It’s a movie about a female bullfighter. I was really interested in how this woman became almost androgynous in her demeanour and in her way of dealing with the bull. That was the starting point for me. It was interesting working with Mpho as I had not previously put my artistic process in anyone else’s hands, and to find

When you perform in this video, you appear as the bullfighter, the bull and the audience. Can you talk more about this collapse and particularly about being the audience?

people who are on the same page as you and understand what you do is very difficult. So I spent a lot of time with him. It was difficult for me to have this moving image of me in someone else’s hands. It was hard, but fun.

When I was in the space, and trying to understand how to occupy different characters in the work, I started imagining watching myself.

Did people get injured in the bullfighting you watched? Did the bulls get hurt?

So it was about being in more than one place at the same time. It’s a lot about being alone

Yes, they did. I really thought that I would feel

and trying to negotiate a very private but public

sorry for the animal and for the fighter, but


watching bullfighting is the most strangely addictive thing that I have ever experienced.

There also seems to be the notion of confronting yourself, or even fighting yourself, which is a very private moment. Yes, it’s private and at times it becomes public too. We all experience moments when we are at war with ourselves – I think we show it in different ways.

What was it like working with the choreographer Mpho Masila for Ukungenisa and how does that experience take your work into the realm of dance – a dance with yourself and a dance with

The bull is sedated and it stays alone the night before the fight … I was lucky to visit a lot of bull breeders as well, and bulls that are destined for



fighting are treated like the best thing on earth

and the colonised space. However, it is much more complex and subtle than that because there is a disjuncture between what Portugal was centuries ago in relation to Africa (very powerful and domineering) and what it is now – an economically weak country. When I was in Portugal giving a talk about art in Africa I was told that people there are quite embarrassed about their colonial history and their relationship to Africa. I think in a lot of your work you reflect such complexities. You deal with dichotomies, but you deal with the ambiguities of dichotomies that go beyond the obvious such as coloniser/colonised, or dominating/dominated. Can you talk a bit about how you work with merging and blending dichotomies, opposites and contradictions?

from birth. A particular mother and father are chosen for them – the bull-breeding business is amazingly regulated; it’s a serious business. They are fed the best food. They have huge pastures to run around in, and the day before the fight, their lives change. They experience a strange, quiet, solitude …

So this private quietness of the bull parallels the private ritual of the bullfighter dressing up for the fight. Yes. The bull is sedated just before the fight, then just before it goes into the arena it is given this jolt. It’s out there in this aggression, but it’s a survival situation; it’s scared, I’m sure. So it’s this combination, and I’m sure the bullfighters get scared too. I think what I find interesting

I guess because of how I grew up my life was

is the fighter, the bull and the audience share

always filled with those opposites that I had to

feelings of being afraid, of needing to perform,

figure out somehow. My defence mechanism

of an expectation of some kind – of a spectacle.

was trying to find the in-between space and trying to understand the complexities that

There seems to be a mutual fear and anxiety, as well as a mutual thrill and excitement.

we don’t have the words to articulate. I think I have always been interested in things that are under the surface. I also don’t think that life is a

You conducted research in both Portugal and Mozambique, so in terms of these two places there is a dialogue between the coloniser’s space

straight line. I don’t think that things are always what they seem. And so because I think about those complicated, in-between things all the time, it’s what interests me.

While in-between spaces are hard, do you think they have the potential of also being productive spaces ... at least some of the time? Yes, I enjoy in-between spaces, and I think I would be very boring otherwise! The inbetween spaces are what have helped me create my work.




I was thinking about the court jester and how it was a person who was employed to provide some kind of entertainment or spectacle. So the work [The Jester] reveals the fact that I was also playing at the time in the sense of trying to figure out what was going on with the material, and how I wanted to function within the art world, and how I wanted to be represented. Nandipha Mntambo (2011)

Just as the spectacle of bullfighting hides the private, vulnerable moment of the matador strapping his suit to his body in the belly of the arena beneath the grandstand, the art world is built on deliberate oversights. Becoming an arena of spectacle, there’s an element of artifice: sequined trappings, staged personas and cheering crowds. Then there’s the showdown. While it is not always clear who is the bull, who is the matador, or who is the cape being used for the lure, often the annunciations of who’s who come from the outside – outside of the self. Underlying much of Mntambo’s work is a desire to slip between and beyond; to evade the grasp of categorisation; to create the space to self-identify and to speak on her own behalf. In ‘Maps of Emergency: Fault Lines and Tectonic Plates’, Stuart Hall argues that artists from the African continent are in the process of freeing themselves from the “burden of representation”, for they are often expected to annunciate some kind of ‘Africanicity’.4

However, as he argues, “There is no one ‘Africa’ here to be positively affirmed”, and he suggests that ‘Africa’ can too easily become a lazy signifier. While the increase of international exposure of artists from Africa in recent years is largely valued, the perpetuation of group shows framed simply around the loose signifier ‘Africa’, rather than being meaningfully themed shows, continues to be problematic. In the sculpture titled The Jester (2008), Mntambo explores the resulting dis-ease she experiences as an artist who is too often pushed into the dark corners of ‘Africanicity’, and of whom it is often expected that her reference to cows will tell a tale of rural Africa, deep tradition and monolithic culture.


Mntambo’s space-making is not simply about making room for definitive self-declarations that would limit understandings of her work, but it is about allowing passage – for herself, for nuance and for new readings. When asked 4

Stuart Hall, ‘Maps of Emergency: Fault Lines and Tectonic Plates’, in Fault Lines: Contemporary African Art and Shifting Landscapes, edited by Gilane Tawadros and Sarah Campbell (London: Institute of International Visual Arts with the Forum for African Arts and the Prince Claus Fund, 2003), 32.



to explain the title Ukungenisa she said, “This means to allow passage, to allow something to happen, to allow space. Not in the way that you just let the thing happen on its own; you are guiding it, you are allowing the passage for it to happen.” While Ukungenisa is the title for one specific piece, the concept has broader relevance to her body of work. Much of Mntambo’s pause, her grappling with her work – its meaning and its reception – is about allowing passage; allowing space for something to happen.

private, strangely spiritual experience of having a dream that I can’t really remember. But I do remember there were cows in the dream. This is why I chose the material. I enjoy exploring how a chemical process can give me a certain amount of control over this organic material.

How long ago was that dream? That was seven years ago now. Then I connected the content of this dream to a very superficial liking of chemicals and a desire to understand the material and how it works;

In conversation she’s very open about this process:

how to manipulate it. And so I think for me it’s never going to be about a particular culture. I just happen to be black. I could be Chinese

While some writers attempt to interpret your reference to cows as a direct illustration of certain African traditions and rituals, in your work and in conversations about your work you seem to distance yourself from that. Can you say something about your work in terms of this ambivalence, particularly as someone who grew up in Johannesburg, as someone who is a different generation from your mother who might see the symbol of the cow in a much more cultural context? How does your work speak to you as an urban, cosmopolitan person of a young generation?

or Indian. I think that some writers find it the easiest option to speak about black women and lobola and whatever, but it’s never going to be about that; it never was about that. It’s about an interest in dead material and chemicals, and the connection that every civilisation in the world has to the cow. We all have an experience of the animal – it’s one of the many things that connect us.

I have not seen much written on the work The Jester. Tell me about it. It was made for a show curated by David Brodie,

In my opinion, the issue is that cowhide is a

a group show called Trickster. At the time I

material. I could be a painter, or I could be

was thinking that I am a bit of a trickster in a

someone who draws – cowhide is the material

way … taking something that isn’t traditionally

that I have chosen as a means of expression.

an art material and making it into that. And I

It is a product of my artistic thinking. I wanted

was thinking about the court jester and how

to be a forensic pathologist and I really love

it was a person who was employed to provide

chemicals and understanding the chemical

some kind of entertainment or spectacle. So

process … I don’t know if that’s the only reason,

the work reveals the fact that I was also playing

but my beginning of using cowhide was a very

at the time in the sense of trying to figure out



what was going on with the material, and how I

culture. I don’t know … I was possibly a bit

wanted to function within the art world, and how

confused. Because of how my work began [with

I wanted to be represented. I think that was the

a dream], a lot of people were thinking about

time I decided I was going to limit the ‘African’

very spiritual connotations of my work, and

group shows that my work was going to be on. I

because I’m black and I dreamt about cows, the

was playing at the time – trying to figure it out.

interpretations were often that it must mean there is some sangoma situation happening.

Yes, I guess one has to be a kind of trickster in order to self-identify as an artist, because in the art world one can too easily be told that you are this or that; your art means this or that. You have to trick people in the art world in a sense, to let it be what you want it to be, and to be yourself.


Yeah, that dream is a dangerous thing to bring up as it can be interpreted in such a simplistic way! I think I was just trying to find connections, so I started reading up on dreaming and how it works, and then something led me to the

I think one has to find a combination of

Maasai. I was dealing with the female body, and

strategies. Yes, one has to perform a bit of

was interested in culture and adornment and

trickery but one also has to have the language

how people view the body, and I started to get

to articulate what one wants viewers to

very interested in jewellery. I then realised that

experience within an artwork. A viewer needs

Maasai women create their own necklaces and

to be bewildered by and guided through the

these necklaces show your status as a woman;

understanding of an artwork.

it indicates whether you are married or single, your age and status within the community. So

While many of your suspended hide figures, like The Jester, are vertical, Sondzela (2008) is very different in its distinct horizontality. Can you say something about this work, particularly its horizontal form and the glass beads that cascade down from the figure? The glass is almost invisible, so there is a lovely sense of floating in the work. Sondzela means ‘come closer’, so I was literally asking the viewer to come closer and take a look. I think that the horizontal stance, in a way, seems less aggressive and less confrontational, and so it’s about wanting a person to be drawn in to take a closer look. In terms of the glass beads, at the time I was really interested in

on the one hand this thing, the necklace, tells p55

so much about you culturally … but at the same time it doesn’t really say anything.

Although there might be a tendency to interpret your work in relation to the concept of ‘African culture’ – whatever that is – it is interesting to think about the various ways your art resonates with the works of artists from elsewhere in the world. I was recently working on a proposal that considers your work in relation to the art of the contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Huan who also uses cowhide in works such as Cowskin Buddha Face No 1 (2007), Cowskin Buddha Face No 2 (2008), or the cowhide giants he produced in 2008.



Oh, I love him so much!

last year I was struck by the proximity of your work to that of Louise Bourgeois and by the way bodies and clothing completely merged in your works and hers. How do you feel about meanings that can open up when your work is displayed with that of other artists in group shows?

Have you met him? No, I wanted to meet him. I went to China last year and I emailed his studio in Shanghai, but I did not get to meet him.

Yeah, I was quite excited about being close to

It is interesting to think that his use of cowhide, ash and incense might be interpreted as relating to tradition and spirituality. Apparently in the Giant series the skins come from Henan Province where he grew up and for him animal motifs are often linked to rural life.5 However, his earlier performance work in China and the USA was anything but traditional, leading him to “reject the notion of a homogenous cultural identity in favour of a subject that changes over time and is constantly redefining itself ”.6 This freedom to self-identify is so important. What interests you about his work?

Louise Bourgeois’ work! I really enjoy being put in relationship to artists that I respect, and whose work I understand. Having work out there means that you should allow for connections or parallels or conversations with other people’s work. I really enjoy it, as long as I am on the same page.

Do people ever try to connect your work with Nicholas Hlobo’s? Visually there are connections with your work and his, especially with the ideas of clothing and materials, and the folds … I love Nicholas’ work, in terms of how he

For me it’s the scale of his work, as well as the

thinks, his use of material. But people curating

attractive and yet repulsive element. His work is

shows or writing about our work haven’t really

very overpowering, but in a way also draws you

picked up on the connections between us. As I

in, which I absolutely love. He makes you look

mentioned before, I think it’s been the easiest

again. He makes you look closer.

option for critics and writers to ‘group’ my work with that of other black women artists – it

And some of his later work is also very quiet.

seems that it would be too complex to have a more dynamic conversation about materiality…

Yes, I really enjoy that about his work. I

and that is the connection I think Nicholas and I

actually saw one of the giant cowhide people,

share within our art-making process. I guess it’s

a figure with a baby, in New York. It was quietly

never really crossed anyone’s mind before.

overpowering but drew one in at the same time. Like something out of a fantasy, maybe even a nightmare – it’s difficult to tell. It was huge, like four stories high. I was blown away!

When I saw your work at the Sydney Biennale

5 6

Dziewior, Yilmaz, ‘Self-Made Man’, in Zhuang Huan, edited by Dziewior, Roselee Goldberg and Robert Storr (New York: Phaidon, 2009), 40. Dziewior, Yilmaz, ‘Self-Made Man’, 38.




[T]he gaze guarantees the failure of seeing. Peggy Phelan (1993)7

It’s about the power of the non-gaze … Nandipha Mntambo (2011)

If spectacle is about oversight as much as it is about sight, what could this mean for the gaze? Is the gaze about seeing, or about what we fail to see? Does the non-gaze see more than the gaze? What makes us look a little closer?

ideas around the human image and how we understand it. So when I started making that work, it was really interesting that as the features developed I saw more of my mother than myself in Zeus. Not that she looks like a man, but it was really interesting to be

In the bronze bust Zeus (2009), what I find to be powerful is the way the body moves forward – including the eyes and horns. Everything seems to move in a particular direction; there’s quite a lot of dynamism to it. Can you say something about that portrait in relation to art historical traditions of busts … how this image debunks certain ideas about portraiture and the bust? And in contrast to Sengifikile (2009), the other bust in which the eyes are lowered and the body is more upright … can you compare the two busts?


confronted with an image of her that I was not expecting to come up. And I had used her body in my work before. Then it was a very intentional thing, but here it just came up unexpectedly. So I have been trying to understand whether, in a strange way, Zeus is a reflection of how I see my mother, or if it’s just totally about me.


I initially made Sengifikile because my best friend’s father wanted an artwork from me and I was working on Zeus and really loving bronze at the time …. Although it is more me in terms

Zeus came first, and I was really wanting

of the features, I really love that work more

something based on me but very masculine,

than Zeus because it’s that same thing as in

domineering; a confronting image. At the

The Rape of Europa (2009) – the recognition

time I was researching bronze and portraiture

of the power that one holds within a particular

and how people used their own image in a

moment. The eyes are facing down but I think

way where they immortalised themselves

there is a very real and clear recognition and

in that particular moment. So I was thinking

realisation of the gaze. So it’s a work that –

of the idea of immortalising oneself, making

unlike Zeus which is very confronting – draws

oneself seem more important than one might be. I guess I was interested in destabilising


Peggy Phelan, Unmarked, 15




you in and as such I really enjoy the power that

image … powerful”, but no one speaks about

the work has to make you look a little bit closer.

the female body, the animal-human; how we understand sexuality, how we understand the

It’s interesting that in Zeus you start off making something more masculine and it ends up like your mother, and in the other one you start making it with a man in mind and it ends up being more feminine. It’s like a subconscious reversing or merging of gender. Can you say something about the strong gaze in the photograph Europa (2008), particularly the fact that it was on the front cover of Art South Africa in 2008? It’s almost as if it’s an easier image compared to the lowered gaze that you say is more powerful in the bust Sengifikile. In some ways the direct gaze in Europa makes it easier for people to latch onto as a powerful image.

border between the male and the female … and that, for me, is what the work is about.

In terms of seduction, the body is leaning forward, but then you have these horns that would block someone from being close to your body, so there is a pull and push effect. p63

What about the title of the bronze bust, Sengifikile? It means ‘now I have arrived’. It’s about the power of the non-gaze. This work is confrontational in a quieter, more subverted way.

The eyes are not shut, right? When I made Europa I was beginning to explore the whole idea of the animal-human and how

Yes, they are not shut.

people really do forget that we are animals as well. And I woke up one day and thought that I want to try and make myself into a bull. I was reading a lot on the Minotaur and I was trying to understand how I would look as that kind of character, and I think that work is very direct,

That’s interesting as it is a kind of subversion of the normal art historical idea that if as a woman you gaze back boldly you are reclaiming power and if you do not – if you lower your gaze – people can look at you in a debasing way.

but strangely seductive in a way. Yeah. I think it is the other way around. There

Do you think that comes through in the gaze?

is so much power in not returning the gaze – a viewer is forced to come closer. The viewer is

I think it’s about the gaze, it’s about the smile on

forced to take action in order to fully engage or

the face, it’s about how we understand the black

be part of the experience of the work.

body, it’s about how we understand the female body, and it’s about how we understand what’s attractive and repulsive. For me, all those things are strangely problematised in that image and no one ever talks about it in that way, which I find problematic. Everyone says “oh, great

In a sense, the work Zeus is more aggressive, but in the way you discuss these two works it is not necessarily the most powerful piece. I think your work deals with those subtleties of in-between spaces well. For example, in the photograph



The Rape of Europa (2009), one figure appears to be dominating and the other appears to be passive, but it is much more complex than that, as it is the same figure.


I was thinking about this idea of being very visible, but also being able to hide…

Yes, it appears to be passive, but at the same

Nandipha Mntambo (2011)

time it’s also not, because there is recognition of the other. There is a clear recognition of the potential threat. Looking one’s possible aggressor in the eye … The figure who is allowing the other one to overpower it or her is doing it with a certain kind of power as well. I am not saying that victims don’t exist, but there is a certain power that we all have in situations and

There are two pieces that I have struggled to understand, partly because most writing focuses on culture and tradition even though I don’t think that is necessarily what you are talking about. These are uMcedo (2009) and Refuge (2009). Can you help me understand them?

p67 & 69

you may not necessarily recognise it at the time. With Refuge …. I had started making the army

And this tension comes out in the fact that in this image you are both of those things – you are both of the figures.

Emabutfo (2009) and was thinking around the idea of a fight. Because of how people choose to understand my work I have had to try and become more articulate about how I don’t want people to interpret my work. I found myself in a situation where I was having this very private fight with myself and trying to figure out what was going on, what I wanted to say. A lot of the time, as artists we depend on critics and writers to help us find the language of what our artwork is about, and I felt frustrated because the language that was being offered at the time was not at all helpful in describing what I was thinking about or what I wanted my work to be about. So I was having this strange struggle with myself having to figure out how to use language that accurately expressed my thoughts and process. With Refuge I was thinking about this idea of being very visible, but also being able to hide. So in the kneeling … some people would see it as a prayer, some people would see it as a submissive position, some people would see it as a very sexual




position and some people would see it in


other ways. I was playing with this idea of an ambiguous space and the relationship between being there and also being concealed.

There are actually three works of mine right now that give me that feeling of crying.

In uMcedo I was thinking of a similar idea –

Nandipha Mntambo (2011)

being able to hide, but being very visible at the same time. I was thinking about a space where one could enter and only exit when you are

Nandikeshvara is a strange work, because it

ready. It was really amazing that although the

made me cry for a while. How it started: my

work smells really bad, lots of people went in

best friend worked in India for two years and

there. It was really interesting to have exactly

she called me and said, “Nandi, you won’t

what I wanted to happen.

believe it, but there is a cow called Nandi. It’s a bull and they worship it here in India”, and I just

What does the title uMcedo mean?

kind of dismissed the conversation. When I was preparing the show Encounter (2007), I created

The object uMcedo was for Zulu men … the

the army first, and was drawn to white cowhide.

object is made out of reeds; it looks like a little

I had no idea why because I had worked in

hut, and it is worn as a pendant on a necklace.

black cowhide mainly before. As I was working,

And uMcedo means ‘the final thing’, or the thing

I don’t know what it was that happened, but I

that puts your outfit together, so it would be

rethought of this Nandi and started researching

the last thing that men wear as part of their

about it and realised that it was a white bull.

outfit, and it’s meant to be something that helps

And I was really intrigued by the fact that all of

protect you. I was thinking about completion. It

a sudden I had been drawn to this white hide,

completes your outfit and it protects you.

as I had no idea why I was drawn to it. And then this story comes up again, and we have the same name … and so it was just really strange to me. I guess I started thinking around the idea of immortalisation again, and creating something that was very powerful, but also very quiet. As for the gestures, I think it was in relationship particularly to the army and being a leader, but at the same time, Nandi became so full of himself that Shiva had to teach him a lesson in humility, and so he crippled him. Then he became the guardian of his temples. I think that quiet power, and having to learn the lesson of humility, was what I was thinking about.



Yes, being very powerful but quiet could be viewed as an apparent incongruence but it is not necessarily a contradiction at all. In As I Am (2009) there is another seeming contradiction between something almost grotesque and something very elegant, and yet these two elements come together quite naturally. The hooves become like these enormous hands, which are grotesque in terms of scale, but then the way the material hangs down, it is quite elegant.

times. So yeah, I guess that work is about feeling immobile. Feeling a bit immobile, but having to p54

have a particular pretence at the same time.

The hands in As I Am are so large. What can one do with such large hands? There is a clumsiness to them; an awkwardness and a distortion. What could one do with such hands that are made from hooves? I started playing with hooves a little while before

Actually, that is the other work that makes me

and really enjoyed the fact that they are the

cry a lot. I started realising that, because of how I

things at the end of the animal and the things

grew up, and because of how my mother is, there

that help it move, but because they are not on

is a very specific way that I allow the world to

the animal anymore they become useless, they

see me. I will go to the studio looking a particular

are not used for the same purpose anymore.

way, change and do my thing, change again and

So, for example, with the cloud of hooves in

leave looking just like I did when I arrived there

Nandikeshvara (2009) – the sculpture is never

in the morning. And that is how my mom exists

going to be able to walk anywhere. So I really

– she is very particular about how the world is

enjoyed the reference to becoming crippled and

allowed to see her. That is a part of her residue

having these things that are meant to help one

in my life. At the same time I am a lot taller than

move around.

a lot of girls, I am bigger than a lot of girls, and I have been mistaken for a man at times, and have

And the third one that makes you cry?

had to understand the in-between space of it. I have enjoyed being an artist, being able to travel

[Laughs]. It’s kind of funny because it is a work

around the world and observing how artists

that no one wants to buy! It’s the strangest

or people from Africa continue to be viewed.

thing. It’s Iqaba Lami – an old work where I

I guess people’s understanding of me while I

started working with cow faces and I came

have been travelling becomes a little more spicy

across the Herero women in Namibia and I was

because I happen to be a black female artist,

so fascinated with these bustles and bustles and

and I happen to live in Africa, so in the opinion of

bustles that they wear, so I created a work that

some people who have not travelled to Africa or

was about that, and using cow faces as these

have only been to specific parts of the continent,

bustles. And I just cried, and cried and cried.

I must live in a shack with no electricity and

And no one wants to buy the work.

very little concept of the current world. All these interesting but problematic issues that used to

Do you know why you cried?

be more prevalent 10 years ago still happen. Realising that, ultimately it makes me sad at

No. Not yet.









nitially, it’s the iconoclastic way the female body collides with the difficult, lumpy material of cowhide that is the most memorable part of Nandipha Mntambo’s work. Yet soon this fades as more disorientating impressions take hold in a world that appears to be seriously out of kilter. The artist has described her relationship with the skin of cattle as prefigured in a dream1 and has produced “… hair-covered but arguably beautiful female figures” to disrupt conventional “perceptions of attraction and repulsion”.2 These long-suppressed memories of our animal past inevitably call into question those categories of desire which condition us all and, building out of this, she then began to consider the ways in which personality is formed through an interrogation of self, even to the point of fragmentation. To express this complexity in her work, she has carefully constructed a framework of ironic circumspection that has allowed her not only to acknowledge her origins in the small pastoral

Kingdom of Swaziland, but also to move away from these to confront larger and more pressing concerns. What exactly these concerns are, however, still remains to be fully played out. Even for the artist they appear to be cause for dispute. The fact that total resolution of self is both impossible and undesirable appears to be the main point. It seems as though ambiguity alone allows us to be human. In The Fighters (2006), casts from her body taken from two different hides, the figures aggressively face up against each other, yet they could just as easily be dancing or embracing as fighting. From the evidence of her most recent work, the moulded skin and fur of a cow have been points of departure that have enabled her, now through other media, to approach fundamental psychological, emotional – even social – schisms of orientation and attitude. These are not confined to her background in South Africa but may be found in the lives of us all.


But cowhide was a good starting point. Symbolically charged, it carries in its wake the overpowering perfume of death. In parts of southern Africa, the slaughtering of a bull connotes an auspicious ritual; in Swaziland the corpse of a king is wrapped in it to be buried. The ox and its skin refer to a complex psychosexual network of bovine mythology which stretches across vast parts of the world.



‘“I dreamt I saw a large herd of cattle”: Nandipha Mntambo talks to Anthea Buys’, in Positions: Contemporary Artists in South Africa, edited by Peter Anders and Matthew Krouse (Johannesburg: Jacana, 2010), 110. Nandipha Mntambo, statement about her exhibition Ingabisa (Cape Town: Michael Stevenson, 2007).



Yama, the Buddhist god of death, lord of the underworld and restorer of harmony, has the head of a bull and virile body of a man and is often depicted ecstatically in yab-yum3 with his consort. The feminine cow, the creature beloved of Krishna and his pert milkmaids that still runs riot through contemporary India, is sacred to the Hindus. Ox-like, horned deities dominated large parts of ancient Iberia and the Middle East. Crete has its myth of the terrifying all-devouring Minotaur – half man, half bull; Mntambo has depicted herself as a female version but she is closer in character to Picasso’s perplexed vision of this beast, attracted by the candle of a little girl, than to its violent, ancient archetype.

himself from associations of ritual usage by turning it into a kind of palimpsest that could contain within its body reference to both the oppression of apartheid and the atrocities of the Holocaust. His early works excavated submerged events in the history of South Africa and Angola; more recently his Quagga Project (1997-2010), as its name suggests, has been more concerned with a poetic recuperation of that which has been lost.5

Throughout time horned, ox-like creatures, male and female, with their own discrete symbologies, have expressed fundamental unities between ostensible opposites: sun/ moon, heaven/earth, alpha/omega, boy/girl, life/death. … The grave’s a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace.4… When an animal is skinned it has no gender. Male and female almost look the same. When I think about the roots of Mntambo’s work, the impression is more of life than death. Although the unprepared hides smell bad and are laborious to prepare, her images are full of vitality. At some time in her Cape Town student days, she must have taken a challenge from Gavin Younge (b 1947), one of her professors, who since the early 1990s had been using goat vellum and cowhide in his work. By choosing vellum – almost translucent leather bereft of its fur – Younge had distanced

But although the material is similar, the fundamental difference between Mntambo’s work and that of Younge is one of generation, which in turn has been influenced by experience and outlook. Mntambo distanced herself from the indigenous and pastoral roots of cowhide, as well as from any stereotypical identity that could be easily thrust upon her, by invoking unsettling, incongruous and sometimes humorous associations from both the history of Western and Asian art and everyday life. Most importantly, by using the female body, usually her own, to mould her figures she has created a sense of self-confidence and empowerment within a context where many women still suffer sexual discrimination and abuse. The forms cast from her body are often left open at the back so that one can almost imagine entering them and standing in the artist’s strong yet vulnerable space. A similar distaste for the hierarchical identities of race and gender, acute legacies from South

3 4 5

Sexual union. Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) from To His Coy Mistress. The quagga is an extinct subspecies of the plains zebra.



Africa’s colonial and apartheid past, can also be found in the work of Berni Searle (b 1964) who, in series such as Color Me (1998-2000) and Discolored (1999-2000), deconstructed the social position cast upon her by family lineage to create a “micro-history of the personal … [that] reveals the radical insufficiencies of all identity”, and to put in its place a multitude of different identities both fantastic and real.6 In more recent works, such as the triple-screen video installation Interlaced (2011), she has constructed a mysterious, exotic persona, seductive and immeasurable in its power, place and colour.

but not exclusively, always figured large. In early paintings and prints it was shown as a house – an ironic domestic fortress; later it became fragmented, in latex, marble, fabric or wool, as breasts, phalluses and vaginas, as mothers and children, or as copulating couples. From the early 1990s it was constructed as an ever-growing series of enclosed ‘Cells’, shrines to traumatic memory – conscious and unconscious – mitigated by desire, hope and enactment through art. Although for the larger part of her career she was regarded as a marginal figure by the art world, one of the reasons her work speaks so strongly to us now is that it captures a subversive and timely realisation that conventional hierarchies and divisions of gender are not as normal as they seem to be: sometimes they cloak their opposites, at other times they conceal harsh realities of oppression and control.

Within this younger generation of artists, concerns about the identity and power of women are not confined to South Africa. In Windswept Women (2009), a series of five four-metre-high photographic panels exhibited at the 53rd Venice Biennale, Japanese artist Miwa Yanagi (b 1967) presented, within a loose framework of Buddhist iconography, a shocking collision of old age and youth. In grainy black and white, isolated on a mountain plateau, these ecstatic dominating goddesses with their swirling hair, flailing, sagging breasts, and wrinkled, firm flesh have broken dharma – the wheel and law of life – because it had no place within it to protect them.7 An important precursor of such positions has been the French/American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010). Balanced on a tightrope between Freud and Proust, from the 1940s to the present she created a series of imaginary, intensely personal worlds fuelled by a multiplicity of associations between memory and desire. The body, often female

Within this embattled world Bourgeois began to realise that the most significant struggle in art and life was that which acknowledged that the greatest limitation and terror lay inside oneself: “what interests me is the conquering of fear, the hiding, the running away from it, exorcising it, being ashamed of it, and finally of being afraid of being afraid …”8 Mntambo’s engagement with archetypical mythology has been prompted by her respect 6

7 8

Berni Searle quoted in Barbara Thompson, ‘Decolonizing Black Bodies: Personal Journeys in the Contemporary Voice’, in Black Womanhood: Images, Icons and Ideologies of the African Body, edited by Thompson (Hanover, NH: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2008), 298. Louise Bourgeois cited in Marie-Laure Bernadac and Hans-Ulrich Obrist (eds), Louise Bourgeois. Destruction of the Father/Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923–1997 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998).



for the power of fear as well as for the multiple significances of silence. She has recently written that “I am at war with myself ” and it is possible to regard the whole development of her work in this light.9 In her first exhibition, Ingabisa, a Swazi word referring to ‘coming of age’, she documented the rite of passage by which she was able to stand alone as an artist. Silent Embrace (2007), 11 life-size digital prints of hide casts based on her mother’s body, shows the individual elements of the large installation Beginning of the Empire. In this latter work, 11 differently textured, dense, shield-like hides, inspired by a photograph of mineworkers taken in 1968 by Peter Magubane, are mounted together on a wall. Here Mntambo, for once, directly refers to the history of apartheid, her title suggesting that the miners may be soldiers in a new world order, yet subversively she renders their black bodies female. In the related photographs each body is cut out against a white background, yet, in spite of its title, there appear to be no arms to embrace the viewer. Is the embrace mute because the arms have been amputated?

Yet her work is rarely without humour. Deity (2004), one of Mntambo’s earliest works, seems to ironise both mythology and ethnicity. The god is cast in black hide in the form of a human on all fours, a ‘primitive’ necklace of bone and bronze slung around a head and neck that appear to have been exploded. Idle, made in the same year, strikes a completely different tone: three pairs of disembodied, hairy, cowhide legs sit crossed, emerging out of the white plastic of contemporary ‘designer’ chairs. In Refuge (2009), this almost comic idea of emergence is tragically reversed when the bodies of three gown-clad figures on all fours appear to be desperately trying to escape by disappearing into a wall.11

The bittersweet idea of silence is further amplified in Silence and Dreams (2008), an installation of eight hide casts ranged in a circle facing outwards, equally taken from the artist and her mother. In an interview with her mother, Mntambo has described this work as about silence and communication: “… about our linkages as well as the separation between us … There is also, I hope, a silence in the work that exists between us, a silence that no one talks about.”10 It is not clear whether she means that this silence is empathetic, aggressive or protective – or all of them at the same time.




Lelive Lami (‘This world is mine’, 2007), marks a different typology in her work, although the underlying theme of the human body emerging out of an animal matrix is pushed further: a black cowhide cast of the artist’s body rises out of vast train of different coloured cows’ tails. It almost seems as if the artist is trying to free herself from the tyranny of history and culture. Indlovukati (‘Mother of the King’, 2007) builds on this by combining two ideas: the carapace of a goddess-like figure floating in space and the flowing lines of a Victorian-period long dress, a style that was incorporated into some traditional African women’s clothing. The relationship of drapery to figure, even in such an intractable material, also suggests Hellenistic sculpture while






9 Email to the author, 29 April 2011. 10 ‘Nandipha Mntambo in conversation with her mother, Sphiwe Mntambo’, in Summer 2008/9: Projects (Cape Town: Michael Stevenson, 2008), 59. 11 This idea was repeated in the same year using one figure in My Departure and Waiting.



the specificity of the fashion perhaps casts a sidelong glance at the fascination of NigerianBritish artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE (b 1962) with European couture of the 18th and 19th centuries.12

she becomes an embodiment of the creative machismo and fear which artist, matador and bull all experience: “I realised that the feelings experienced by the crowd, the fighter and the bull,” she wrote, “are very similar – the animal is scared, confused and is fighting to survive; the fighter needs to prove himself but he is also scared of the bull; the crowd is also scared, terrified of what could possibly happen … but they need the spectacle …”13 In the two-panel photographic work Mlwa ne Nkunzi (‘Bull fighter’, 2008), she emblematically ‘plays’ the roles of both bull and matador dressed only in cowhide.

Nandikeshvara (2009) features a cast in hide of the artist’s body ‘floating’ in thin air on a ‘cloud’ of cows’ hooves. Its title, meaning ‘a mind dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva’, also contains a play on her own first name as well as that of Nandi, the god’s famous white bull and war steed. The figure in the work however evokes completely different traditions: the assertive female form with outspread arms or wings suggests the Nike of Samothrace, the second-century BCE classical Greek Goddess of Victory now in the Louvre, while the ‘cloud’ which supports her is reminiscent of the chubby curves of the fog of putti who carry the Virgin heavenwards in an Immaculate Conception by a Spanish 17th-century master such as Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Ukungenisa (‘Giving space for something to happen’, 2008), Mntambo’s first video work, also conveys a taste for the pleats and folds of the Baroque that have continued into her most recent work. Set in the silent void of the derelict Praça de Touros in Maputo, the capital of former Portuguese-occupied Mozambique, the artist plays the role of killer, bull and audience. Dressed in the resplendent finery of a matador, with a waistcoat and train made out of cowhide and ears, she personifies both the bull and its nemesis, tensely swirling self-destructive passes with her red muleta. Building on the ambivalence of her earlier work The Fighters, but now clearly a trespasser in male territory,


The large photographic work The Rape of Europa (2009) heralds further compression of the violence. Artist and bull are no longer separate. In the myth on which this story is based, Zeus, head of the Greek pantheon, transformed himself into a white bull to abduct Europa, a beautiful Phoenician princess and




12 Iqaba Lami (2007) and Meditations on Solitude (2009) also contain figures with the same kind of ‘Victorian’ dress. 13 Nandipha Mntambo interviewed by Joost Bosland in Disguise: The Art of Attracting and Deflecting Attention (Cape Town: Michael Stevenson, 2008), 21.



descendent of Io, the mythical nymph whom Zeus had previously seduced and then turned into a heifer to escape the wrath of Hera, his wife. Here, with horned head and hairy body, the artist ravishes Europa, also represented by herself, within a lush tropical paradise. The same idea and connection with Greek mythology is continued in Narcissus (2009) in which, in bull-headed form, she gazes in adoration at her own reflection.

give is one of irresolution, of conflict, of uncertainty, even of sadness.


It is hard to say whether the solipsism of these images expresses power or weakness as they seem to embody not only the artist’s own war with herself but also the failure of dialectical thought to capture a truthful expression of either emotion or reality. In this sense the works are a critique of rational thought, its historical lineage and its results. Europa (2008), a single image of her horned self, has been further amplified in the bronze busts Zeus and Sengifikile (‘I have arrived’), cast in 2009. With the move into a threedimensional, ‘noble’ material we leave the virtual world of the photograph to approach a narcissistic historicism not unlike the work of Jeff Koons (b 1955) who, in the series of large photographs and sculptures Made in Heaven (1989-91), chronicled in detail his sexual relationship with La Cicciolina, an Italian porn star, politician and, for a short time, his wife. Yet, although Koons’ works depict countless attempts at procreation, their impression is one of overwhelming sterility. In Mntambo’s case, although the underlying theme of these and related works is essentially masturbatory, they are not infected by Koons’ pseudo-heroic hubris. The impression they


p61 & 60

Reflecting on this, it may not be too fanciful to suggest that we are the guests at an extended chronicle of coming of age. Taken together, Mntambo’s works may be read like an African Bildungsroman, a romantic exposition of the self pioneered in the late 18th and early 19th century by male European writers, now stripped down and transformed into a mythic affirmation of humanity for its own sake – devoid of identity, singularity of gender or other limitations. The path her work has taken is characterised by the persistent desire to dig deep beyond the surface in order to circumvent established theories, causes or styles. Through the prism of a subjective aesthetic she has bypassed what we describe as politics by fusing desire, imagination, memory and material in images and objects that refuse to fit into any conventional framework. In this sense her work subverts desire by thwarting expectation. Most recently, building on the same bank of images and myths, this journey has taken her towards painting and drawing. Ultimately, as now, the territory that she will occupy is that which is far beyond the controlling skin of perception or language. It will be, rather, a place where she can pump up the volume of “a silence that no one talks about”14 so that she can excavate, ventilate and celebrate the ambiguities within both our natures and her own.

14 ‘Nandipha Mntambo in conversation with her mother, Sphiwe Mntambo’, 59.





WORKS 2004-2011



Idle 2004 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, steel, plastic 3 figures, approx 90 x 47 x 59cm each

Balandzeli 2004 Cowhide, resin, waxed cord 137 x 360 x 70cm

Collection of the Artist

Johannesburg Art Gallery Collection




Deity 2004 Cowhide, resin, waxed cord, bone, bronze 60 x 114 x 74cm

Purge and Stepping into Self 2005 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord, bones, glass beads Purge 154 x 116 x 94cm; Stepping into Self 74 x 115 x 92cm

Collection of the Artist

Iziko South African National Gallery Collection, Cape Town



Uhambo 2006 Cows’ faces, resin, polyester mesh, fiberglass, waxed cord 330 x 390 x 150cm

Iqaba Lami 2007 Cowhide, cows’ faces, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 150 x 115 x 75cm

Collection of the Artist

Collection of the Artist




Untitled 2007 Cows' ears, resin, waxed cord Dimensions variable

Indlovukati 2007 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 153 x 89 x 70cm

Collection of the Artist

Private Collection, Johannesburg



The Fighters 2006 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord Height 126cm; installation dimensions variable Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum Collection, Port Elizabeth




Beginning of the Empire 2007 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 100 x 1000 x 60cm Collection of the Artist




Silent Embrace 2007 11 digital prints on cotton rag paper 173 x 91cm each Edition of 5 + 2AP Photographer: Tony Meintjes SABC Collection, Johannesburg; Sasol Collection, Johannesburg; Sindika Dokolo Collection, Luanda; Private Collections




Silence and Dreams 2008 Cowhide, cows’ tails, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 8 figures, installation approx 245 x 650 x 300cm Gordon Schachat Collection, Johannesburg





Study 1 (uMcedo) 2009 Ink on cotton paper 50.5 x 65cm

Study 2 (Babel) 2009 Ink on cotton paper 65 x 50.5cm

Private Collection, Johannesburg

Private Collection, Johannesburg




Lelive Lami 2007 Cowhide, cows’ tails, resin, polyester mesh 180 x 290 x 200cm

Babel 2009 Cows’ tails, wood Installation dimensions variable

University of South Africa (Unisa) Collection, Pretoria

Jochen Zeitz Collection




As I Am 2009 Cowhide, cows’ hooves, resin, polyester mesh 58 x 71 x 44cm

Sondzela 2008 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, glass beads, waxed cord 170 x 165 x 100cm

Private Collection, Mauritius

Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf




The Jester 2008 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 175 x 60 x 80cm Sasol Collection, Johannesburg

Intsandvokati 2008 Cowhide, cows’ ears, resin, polyester mesh 175 x 100 x 140cm Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf




So It Begins 1 & 2 2010 Intaglio on paper 75 x 56cm each Working proofs

Mlwa ne Nkunzi 2008 Archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper Diptych, 112 x 84.5cm each Edition of 5 + 2AP Photographer: Lambro

Collection of the Artist

Murray & Roberts Collection, Johannesburg; Spelman College Collection, Atlanta; Private Collections




Sengifikile 2009 Bronze 79.5 x 53 x 25.5cm Edition of 5 + 2AP

Zeus 2009 Bronze 88 x 84 x 58cm Edition of 5 + 2AP

Jochen Zeitz Collection; Private Collections

Jochen Zeitz Collection; Private Collections



Europa 2008 Archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper 112 x 112cm Edition of 5 + 2AP Photographic composite: Tony Meintjes Gordon Schachat Collection, Johannesburg; Iziko South African National Gallery Collection, Cape Town; Private Collections

p64 Narcissus 2009 Archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper 112 x 112cm Edition of 5 + 2AP Photographic composite: Tony Meintjes Jochen Zeitz Collection; Private Collections

p65 The Rape of Europa 2009 Archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper 112 x 112cm Edition of 5 + 2AP Photographic composite: Tony Meintjes Jean Pigozzi Collection; Jochen Zeitz Collection; Private Collections








Drawing 1 2009 Ink on cotton paper 50.5 x 65cm

uMcedo 2009 Cows’ tails, wood 320 x 335 x 150cm

Private Collection, Mauritius

Jochen Zeitz Collection


Refuge 2009 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh 3 figures, each approx 52 x 60 x 59cm; installation approx 52 x 190 x 59cm Private Collection, Johannesburg



Emabutfo 2009 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 24 figures, each approx 120 x 60 x 20cm; installation approx 120 x 230 x 440cm Jochen Zeitz Collection





Emabutfo and Nandikeshvara Installation view

Nandikeshvara 2009 Cowhide, cows’ hooves, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 183 x 110 x 26cm Private Collection, Mauritius



Praรงa de Touros I 2008 Archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper 111 x 166cm Edition of 5 + 2AP Photographer: Jac de Villiers Jochen Zeitz Collection; Private Collections





Praรงa de Touros II 2008 Archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper 111 x 166cm Edition of 5 + 2AP Photographer: Jac de Villiers

Praรงa de Touros III 2008 Archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper 111 x 166cm Edition of 5 + 2AP Photographer: Jac de Villiers

Jochen Zeitz Collection; Private Collections

Gordon Schachat Collection, Johannesburg; Jochen Zeitz Collection; Johannesburg Art Gallery Collection; Private Collections


Praรงa de Touros IV 2008 Archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper Triptych, 111 x 77cm each Edition of 5 + 2AP Photographer: Jac de Villiers Jochen Zeitz Collection; Standard Bank Collection, Johannesburg; Private Collections

Ukungenisa 2009 Single-channel video shot on HD, colour, sound Duration 2 min 30 sec Edition of 5 + 2AP Gordon Schachat Collection, Johannesburg; Huis Marseille Collection, Amsterdam; Jean Pigozzi Collection; Jochen Zeitz Collection; Private Collection, Mauritius


Nftombi Mfana 2007 Cowhide coat, cows’ ears, faces and tails, resin, polyester mesh Height 165cm Private Collection, Cape Town

Inkunzi Emnyama 2009 Diptych, archival ink on cotton rag paper 112 x 85cm each Edition of 5 + 2AP Photographer: Tony Meintjes Jochen Zeitz Collection




Phuma Langa Sikotse 2010 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 148 x 158 x 116cm Gordon Schachat Collection, Johannesburg




Unongayindoda 2009 Cows’ tails, wood Approx 110 x 260 x 110cm

Drawing 6 2009 Archival ink on cotton paper 50 x 30.5cm

Collection of the Artist

Private Collection


Penis Vagina – One-Man Capsule 2009 Cowhide, cows’ tails, resin, polyester mesh 235 x 180 x 180cm Collection of the Artist


My Departure 2009 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 65 x 170 x 90cm Jochen Zeitz Collection



Waiting 2009 Cowhide, cow tails, resin, polyester mesh 60 x 140 x 140cm Private Collection, USA


Contact 2010 Cowhide, cows’ hooves, resin, polyester mesh 190 x 195 x 70cm National Museum of African Art Collection, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC





Meditations on Solitude 2009 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 156 x 120 x 60cm

The Spaces In-Between 2010 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh 150 x 160 x 50cm

Gordon Schachat Collection, Johannesburg

Private Collection, Johannesburg



Actos de fé que estão entre mãe e 4 2011 Cow hair, charcoal and ink on paper 121 x 151cm Jochen Zeitz Collection




Vela Sikubhekile 2011 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord, horn 137 x 156 x 95cm Jochen Zeitz Collection




Actos de fé que estão entre mãe e 2 2011 Cow hair on paper 50 x 65cm

Entrar 2011 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 170.5 x 123 x 75cm

Jochen Zeitz Collection

Jochen Zeitz Collection



Retrato de um lutador 2011 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 176 x 146 x 80cm Jochen Zeitz Collection





Actos de fé que estão entre mãe e 1 2011 Cow hair on paper 65 x 50cm

Guqa Embi Kwami 2011 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 90 x 155 x 70cm

Jochen Zeitz Collection

Jochen Zeitz Collection



Actos de fé que estão entre mãe e 3 2011 Cow hair, charcoal and ink on paper 151 x 66cm Jochen Zeitz Collection



Muleta 2011 Cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord 131 x 60 x 25cm Jochen Zeitz Collection


Actos de fé que estão entre mãe e 5 2011 Cow hair, charcoal and ink on paper 145 x 151cm Jochen Zeitz Collection



Paso Doble 2011 Single-channel digital video, colour, sound Duration 9 min 11 sec Edition of 5 + 2AP Jochen Zeitz Collection





SPace: Currencies in Contemporary African Art, Museum Africa, Newtown, Johannesburg Dak’Art, 9th Dakar Biennale, Senegal Life Less Ordinary: Performance and Display in South African Art, Ffotogallery, Cardiff, Wales The Good Old Days, Aarhus Art Building, Denmark Hautnah: Hair in Art and Culture, Kunstverein Leonberg, Germany Toros!, Galerie Sophie Scheidecker, Paris She Devil, Studio Stefania Miscetti, Rome Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography, Bamako, Mali Life Less Ordinary: Performance and Display in South African Art, Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, UK La modernité dans l’art africain d’aujourd’hui, Panafrican Cultural Festival of Algiers, Algeria Undercover: Performing and Transforming Black Female Identities, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, Georgia, USA Works from the 2008 Dak’art Biennale, ifa gallery, Berlin and Stuttgart Number Two: Fragile, Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf Self/Not-self, Brodie/Stevenson, Johannesburg Why Not?, Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin Beauty and Pleasure in South African Contemporary Art, The Stenersen Museum, Oslo Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; Davis Museum, Wellesley, Massachusetts; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, USA Summer 2008/9: Projects, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town Disturbance: Contemporary Art from Scandinavia and South Africa, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg

Born 1982 in Swaziland. Lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Master of Fine Art (MFA), Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art (BAFA), Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town




Umphatsi Wemphi, Brodie/Stevenson, Johannesburg The Encounter, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town Ingabisa, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town Locating Me in Order to See You (Master’s degree exhibition), Michaelis Gallery, Cape Town




ARS 11, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki Mine – A Selection of Films by SA Artists, Iwalewa-Haus, University of Bayreuth, Germany Peekaboo – Current South Africa, Tennis Palace Art Museum, Helsinki Ampersand, Daimler Contemporary, Berlin The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age, 17th Biennale of Sydney, Australia







Dak’Art, 8th Dakar Biennale, Senegal Disguise: The Art of Attracting and Deflecting Attention, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town Skin-to-Skin: Challenging Textile Art, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg .za: Young Art from South Africa, Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena, Italy The Trickster, ArtExtra, Johannesburg Summer 2007/8, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town Apartheid: The South African Mirror, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, Spain Afterlife, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town Olvida Quien Soy - Erase Me from Who I Am, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria MTN New Contemporaries 2006, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg Second to None, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town In the Making: Materials and Process, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town

Sassen, Robyn. ‘An artist on the up and up’. Sunday Times, 17 April, 9 Van der Walt, Carina. ‘Nandipha Mntambo: Cowgirl’. ZAM (January): 44-51 Buys, Anthea. ‘I dreamt I saw a large herd of cattle’. In Positions: Contemporary Artists in South Africa, edited by Peter Anders and Matthew Krouse, 106-117. Johannesburg: Jacana Media Ganzenberg, Christian, ed. Ampersand (exhibition catalogue). Berlin: Daimler Contemporary May, Jackie. ‘The horns of a dilemma’. The Times, 26 March, 2 Pusa, Erja et al. Peekaboo – Current South Africa (exhibition catalogue). Helsinki: Helsinki Art Museum Watermeyer, Natalie. ‘In search of the Minotaur’. ClassicFeel (December/ January): 77-78 Enwezor, Okwui, and Chika Okeke-Agulu. Contemporary African Art since 1980. Bologna: Damiani Julia Stoschek Collection, ed. Number Two: Fragile. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag Malcomess, Bettina. ‘Review: Nandipha Mntambo’. Art South Africa 8, No 1 (Spring): 90 Sampson, Lin. ‘Bull-Breaker’. Sunday Times, 15 February, 8-9 Toffoli, Hilary Prendini. ‘Encounters with cowhide’. The Weekender, 2-3 May, 13 Vundla, Mfundi. ‘A compendium of desires’. In Nandipha Mntambo: The Encounter (catalogue 41). Cape Town: Michael Stevenson Wendt, Selene et al. Beauty and Pleasure in South African Contemporary Art (exhibition catalogue). Oslo: The Stenersen Museum Williamson, Sue. South African Art Now. New York: HarperCollins





Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art SPACES World Artists Program residency, Cleveland, Ohio PUMA.Creative Mobility Award Wits/BHP Billiton Fellowship Curatorial Fellowship, Brett Kebble Art Awards Mellon Meyers Fellowship



2005 2003-4


Metsola, Satu, Pirkko Slitari and Jari-Pekka Vanhala, eds. ARS 11 (exhibition catalogue). Helsinki: Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art





Bosland, Joost. ‘Nandipha Mntambo’. In Disguise: The Art of Attracting and Deflecting Attention (catalogue 35). Cape Town: Michael Stevenson Buys, Anthea. ‘An Artist’s Life: Nandipha Mntambo’. Business Day Art (September): 11 McIntosh, Tavish. ‘Artbio: Nandipha Mntambo’. Artthrob 133 (September). Gruben, Paula. ‘Cowgirl’. Live Out Loud (October): 67-70 Mntambo, Nandipha. ‘Nandipha Mntambo in conversation with her mother, Sphiwe Mntambo’. In Summer 2008/9: Projects (catalogue 39). Cape Town: Michael Stevenson O’Toole, Sean. ‘The Big Picture’. Sunday Times, 10 August, 15 Thompson, Barbara, ed. Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body. Hanover, New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College Malcomess, Bettina. ‘The fragile persistence of memory.’ In Nandipha Mntambo (catalogue 29). Cape Town: Michael Stevenson McIntosh, Tavish. ‘Nandipha Mntambo at Michael Stevenson Gallery’. Artthrob 121 (September). reviews/ms.html Perryer, Sophie. ‘Nandipha Mntambo’. In Afterlife (catalogue 26). Cape Town: Michael Stevenson Subiros, Pep. ‘To Look and Not To Look, To See and Not To See’ In Apartheid: The South African Mirror, 109. Barcelona: Centre de Cultura Contemporania Zaayman, Carine. ‘Meschac Gaba and Nandipha Mntambo.’ Art South Africa 6, No 1 (Summer): 83




Dyangani Ose, Elvira et al. Olvida Quien Soy – Erase Me from Who I Am (exhibition catalogue). Las Palmas: Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno Ngcobo, Gabi. ‘What Do We See When We Look At Us?’ Art South Africa 4, No 3 (Autumn): 49-53 Perryer, Sophie, ed. In the Making: Materials and Process (catalogue 16). Cape Town: Michael Stevenson Gurney, Kim. ‘Hirsute Divas’. Art South Africa 3, No 3 (Autumn): 51





Actos de fé que estão entre mãe e 5, 2011, cow hair, charcoal and ink on paper, 145 x 151cm



Standard Bank Young Artist Award 2011

Paso Doble, 2011, single-channel digital video, colour, sound, duration 9 min 11 sec Inkunzi Emnyama, 2009, diptych, archival ink on cotton rag paper, 112 x 85cm each All works Jochen Zeitz Collection


Vela Sikubhekile, 2011, cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord, horn, 137 x 156 x 95cm Retrato de um lutador, 2011, cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord , 176 x 146 x 80cm Entrar, 2011, cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord, 170.5 x 123 x 75cm Guqa Embi Kwami, 2011, cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord, 90 x 155 x 70cm Muleta, 2011, cowhide, resin, polyester mesh, waxed cord, 131 x 60 x 25cm Actos de fé que estão entre mãe e 1, 2011, cow hair on paper, 65 x 50cm Actos de fé que estão entre mãe e 2, 2011, cow hair on paper, 50 x 65cm Actos de fé que estão entre mãe e 3, 2011, cow hair, charcoal and ink on paper, 151 x 66cm Actos de fé que estão entre mãe e 4, 2011, cow hair, charcoal and ink on paper, 121 x 151cm




30 June – 10 July 2011 National Arts Festival, Grahamstown 27 July – 4 September 2011 Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth



24 September – 7 November 2011 Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town


23 November 2011 – 15 January 2012 Durban Art Gallery, Durban


16 February – 9 April 2012 Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein


2 May – 9 June 2012 Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg


7 August – 14 September 2012 University of Potchefstroom Art Gallery, Potchefstroom





2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1985 1984 1983 1982 1981

Michael MacGarry Nicholas Hlobo Nontsikelelo Veleko Pieter Hugo Churchill Madikida Wim Botha Kathryn Smith Berni Searle Brett Murray Walter Oltmann Alan Alborough Nhlanhla Xaba Lien Botha Trevor Makhoba Jane Alexander Sam Nhlengethwa Pippa Skotnes Tommy Motswai Andries Botha Bonnie Ntshalintshali & Fee Halsted-Berning Helen Sebidi Margaret Vorster William Kentridge Gavin Younge Marion Arnold Peter Sch端tz Malcolm Payne Neil Rodger Jules van der Vijver



Published by Stevenson in association with Standard Bank and the National Arts Festival

Stevenson gallery staff Standard Bank and the National Arts Festival Tony Meintjes Dada Masilo, Lulu Mlangeni and Alex Hlabangane Clare Loveday Mpho Masilela Tamsyn Reynolds Ruth Simbao and David Elliott Johannes Kgobe Lebo and KOP Matseke Mfundi Vundla Bettina Malcomess My family

Š 2011 Texts: the authors Š 2011 For works by Nandipha Mntambo: the artist ISBN 978-0-620-50664-9 Editor Sophie Perryer Design Gabrielle Guy Image repro Mario Todeschini Printing Hansa Print, Cape Town Binding GraphiCraft, Cape Town Endpapers (hardcover only) Untitled, 2010, oil on photo on canvas, 4 works, 183 x 183cm each Page 2 Detail of Actos de fe que estao entre mae e 5, 2011, cow hair, charcoal and ink on paper, 145 x 151cm Pages 8, 10, 12, 13, 20, 21, 23, 24, 29 Untitled drawings, 2009, ink on cotton paper, various dimensions Page 32 Detail of Actos de fe que estao entre mae e 4, 2011, cow hair, charcoal and ink on paper, 121 x 151cm Page 112 Detail of Actos de fe que estao entre mae e 3, 2011, cow hair, charcoal and ink on paper, 151 x 66cm Page 116 Vela Sikubhekile and Retrato de um lutador at the artist's studio in Johannesburg, May 2011 Page 118 Entrar photographed in progress at the artist's studio in Johannesburg, May 2011 Photo credits Pages 2, 32, 95, 97-99, 101-105, 107, 112 John Hodgkiss | 34, 35, 36 Kerry-Mae Joshua | 37 Kathy Skead | 39, 49, 5457, 60, 61, 67, 69, 71-73, 89, 91, 116, 118 Mario Todeschini | 38, 40, 41, 43, 45, 52 Vanessa Cowling | 46, 47, 63-65, 82, 83, 85 Tony Meintjes | 53 Lutz Bertram, courtesy of Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin | 58, endpapers Jerry Mann, courtesy of Spaces Gallery, Cleveland | 59 Lambro | 75-77 Jac de Villiers | 88, 92 Sebastian Kriete, courtesy of the 17th Biennale of Sydney | 93 Courtesy of Daimler Contemporary, Berlin



Buchanan Building 160 Sir Lowry Road Woodstock 7925

62 Juta Street Braamfontein 2001

PO Box 616 Green Point 8051

Postnet Suite 281 Private Bag x9 Melville 2109

T +27 (0)21 462 1500 F +27 (0)21 462 1501

T +27 (0)11 326 0034/41 F +27 (0)86 275 1918

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