Know your artist: Nandipha Mntambo

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Explore! Awesome South African Artists by Cobi Labuschagne
Jacana Media
Recommended selling price – R195
Releases in September

Explore! Awesome South African Artists is an upcoming book that does just what it says – profiles our local visual artists. With punchy write-ups accompanied by beautiful illustrations, it’s the perfect 101 guide on South Africa’s artistic landscape. #Trending is running extracts from the book, and this week’s is on Nandipha Mntambo:

“If your father is a pastor, he has to go from congregation to congregation where he gets placed by the church. That means a lot of moving around. That is how Nandipha Mntambo grew up. She was always experiencing new places and new people.

Her family made sure that she went to good schools wherever they lived. Sometimes people thought that she was a very confident young girl, but her big personality was a way of defining herself. She often got into trouble for wanting to do things her way.

As a little girl, Nandipha was very interested in bodies and decided to become a forensic pathologist – someone who tries to understand how a person died. But later she realised that she was more interested in bodies which were still alive, specifically understanding her own body and how it fits into the world.

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Illustration: Lauren Mulligan

As Nandipha studied art, she found that she absolutely loved sculpture. Sculptures are three dimensional and can be made in many different ways. Her student work was bought by the SA National Gallery. She used cowskins and shaped them to look like her own shape, or a woman’s body. She also cast shapes of her body in bronze and made herself look like mythological figures.

Now Nandipha is a very successful artist. She has a gallery that takes care of her work and her exhibitions while she looks after her little girl, Isiuwa. Her dream is to have a big sculpture studio in her back garden, where she will spend a lot of time drawing, making sculptures and, sometimes, just thinking.

For Nandipha, art is a way to remind people that even though we live in a world where so much divides us, such as skin colour or how much money we have, we all have similar joys and struggles. Art can make these shared experiences visible and maybe help us understand each other better.”

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