Xhosa artist’s work a hit in US

Former WSU student’s art reflects his identity as an Eastern Cape-born man


South African artist Simphiwe Mbunyuza has taken the US by storm with his artwork and paintings on Xhosa culture that have been displayed in galleries across the country.
The former Walter Sisulu University student recently won two awards from the University of Oklahoma School of Visual Arts.
He has spent the past year working for the university as an assistant lecturer and studying towards a master’s degree in fine art.
The Emambendeni village-born artist received the 2019 Oscar Jacobson Award and the Red Clay Faction Award for his work on Xhosa people.
“I was privileged to be part of the show and get to win two awards.
“The artwork is called Ingono [Udder].
“It particularly carries a story of how Xhosa people milk their cows and store the fresh milk in a calabash that serves as a functional container for home consumption purposes.
“In general, my work resembles my cultural identity as a Xhosa man from the Eastern Cape, hence I embrace this particular artistic style with my cultural elements,” he said.
The 30-year-old has won numerous awards in ceramics and drawing.
In 2017, he was selected to represent SA in France with five other students from the US and Mexico.
They were selected to produce artwork that was exhibited at the end of the Artists in Residence Vallauris programme.
“My art stands out from other people’s work. It holds and preserves my identity and background. It tells a different story as compared to western styles.
“I’m inspired by the use of colour, day-to-day objects that were used by Xhosa people, the lifestyle activities and how Xhosa people built their mud structure homes.”
His interest in art started as a young boy.
Mbunyuza said young boys would mould cows and other objects from clay while herding cows in the fields.
“I grew up playing with older boys from my Emambendeni village outside Butterworth. We played with clay while herding the cows at the fields. I was always fascinated by how the older boys moulded cows with clay and I learnt the art from them.
“I was also good at making cars with wires and that influence from them instilled something in me and revealed my inner talent.”
He attributed his success to his family and former school teachers.
“When I arrived at junior secondary school, my English teacher Miss Mpakama identified me as a learner with artistic potential and she began to form a group of art students.
“She taught us art after school and on weekends.
“Art defined who I am and it was just impossible to deviate from it even though I wanted to study law,” he recalled...

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