World is KZN artist’s oyster

2012-08-11 15:02

Her career as an artist started with a cardboard Christmas tree 18 years ago, and now a young KwaZulu-Natal artist is taking her craft to Denmark.

Nkule Mabaso’s work impressed a panel of experts so much that she is among 70 artists – from a pool of 700 applicants worldwide – to be chosen for a curated international exhibition in Copenhagen.

“There was a call to submit work for consideration to the international juried exhibition hosted by Charlottenborg Foundation in Denmark. I sent my portfolio. My work made the selection and most of it got sold there,” the 24-year-old told City Press this week from her home in Newcastle.

As a result of her success at the exhibition, Mabaso was offered a solo exhibition in Copenhagen next year.

She describes her work as being subtly political.

“I want my work to be confrontational and be part of the conversation raising questions around the representation of black female bodies and their subjugation.”

Mabaso’s first memory of artistic expression dates back to the year that her family moved from rural Nquthu to Newcastle.

As a Grade 1 pupil, she saw her first Christmas tree. This inspired her to create her own – out of cardboard and paper.

Now, as an up-and-coming artist and aspirant curator, she’s committed to getting other KZN youngsters involved in art.

Last year, after graduating with a bachelor of fine art from the University of Cape Town, she founded the Newcastle Creative Network.

“The aim of the network was to provide exposure of the artists’ work to the greater community and to make practitioners aware of each other so we don’t function in isolation, but rather as part of a supportive community that encourages peer dialogue and exchange”.

Using someone’s house and yard, local artists are encouraged to bring their work for a one-day exhibition every two weeks.

“It is still a work in progress. We have not yet reached financial sustainability. It is currently running out of my pocket. We are looking for sponsors and hopefully that will change soon,” Mabaso said.

As the eldest of seven children, though, justifying her career choice to her father didn’t come easily.

“My father wanted me to get into a career that would offer financial security since art is not seen to offer that. My mother always says it’s good that I know how to defend my position and stand my ground, which helped to show them I am serious about what I am doing and that I have goals they can be part of.”

Her mother’s wise advice has paid off: next month, Mabaso heads off to Zurich University of the Arts to begin a two-year master’s degree in curating. She won a bursary to cover her studies from the National Arts Council.

Then there’s Copenhagen – and then, for the brilliant young artist on the rise, the sky’s the limit.

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