Themba trusts ink to make art

2019-10-17 06:00
Young artist Themba Mkhangeli showing some of his drawings made by pen.PHOTO: UNATHI OBOSE

Young artist Themba Mkhangeli showing some of his drawings made by pen.PHOTO: UNATHI OBOSE

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The young and upcoming Nyanga-based artist, Themba Mkhangeli, is making a name for himself in the art industry.

Unlike most artists who make their drawings with a pencil, Mkhangeli uses a ball-point pen. “When you draw with a pen you must be careful because you can’t rub or wipe it,” said the Mpinga Square resident.

The soft-spoken artist, originally from Mthatha in Eastern Cape, said he fell in love with the pen and paper at a very young age while he was still at primary school.

He said he started using a pen because he didn’t have money to buy other drawing material.

“I started drawing at the age of eight at Julukuqu Primary School,” said Mkhangeli. “I used to spend most of my time drawing instead of focusing on my school work. When I moved to Cape Town in 2007 I did Grade 7 at Linge Primary School in Nyanga, and that is where I took artwork serious.”

He added he met fellow artist Andile Nonjinge who mentored him till he completed his matric at New Eisleben High School in 2013.

Mkhangeli said in 2015 he enrolled at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Cape Town Campus to study industrial design. In his first year he failed and repeated the class in 2016, but decided to quit after realising he was going to fail again.

“The course was divided into two sections; there was practical and theory. Because I was not good with the books I was struggling with the theory which I failed. I had to repeat it in the following year but struggled and decided to quit in June 2016,” said Mkhangeli adding that he didn’t inform his family.

“My mother was the first person to leave the house (in the morning) to go to work. I was staying in a shack at the back.

“I used to lock myself inside the whole day doing my drawings and came out in the afternoon when other children were coming from school,” he confessed.

He said in September the same year he heard of the Framed Feather and Art Shopper Exhibition in Artscape.

“I asked my mother to accompany me to the exhibition. I wanted her to see what we were taught at varsity. When we came back from the exhibition I told my family that I’m not going back to school again and since then I never looked back,” he said.

He showcased his work at the 30x40 exhibition at Art.b Gallery at the Bellville Library in November 2016. In February last year, he entered Pen Art Master, an online competition. In June this year, he was won the Engen Design 35 Community Challenge. The contest gives aspiring artists, illustrators and designers an opportunity to show their talent and transform local spaza shops. He received a scholarship for a year and plans to study at Red and Yellow Creative School of Business in Salt River. “They will provide me with all the study material including transport,” he said.

The 25-year-old described art as a gift that he was born with. “Not everyone can become an artist. It is something natural that a person is born with. My peers used to tease me calling me names like ‘Mzombi’ and I was not offended,” he stated.

He added that drawing needs a lot of focus and attention. “I can’t specify how much time it takes to complete a drawing, it depends on my mood or the features on that particular drawing,” said Mkhangeli.

He said growing up with a single parent made him develop a soft spot for women. Most of his drawings feature women including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

He has customers and his prices depend on the type of drawing. “I do drawings for churches, crèches or special drawings where maybe a couple ask me to draw them,” he said adding that the most expensive portrait that he sold at a gallery to a tourist was R12 000 in 2016,” he said.

Some of his drawings include Nelson Mandela, Chris Hani, Steve Biko, Benni McCarthy and Oliver Tambo.

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