Q&A with 2019 Award Finalist: NONKULULEKO SIBANDE

After careful consideration of several hundred entries by artists from across South Africa, the judges have shortlisted 10 artists working in a number of mediums including painting, photography, digital art and printmaking.

The work of the shortlisted artists will go on show in a special exhibition at StateoftheART’s Cape Town gallery from 27 August – 14 September 2019 and the winner announced at the Award Ceremony on 05 September. The winner will be awarded a R20 000 cash prize and a solo exhibition with the gallery in 2020.

We asked the Ten Gallery Award Finalists some questions to help you get to know them before the Finalists Exhibition.


Artist Statement:

My aim is to explore and determine how the discourse of post colonialism inform the relationship between the black women in and their afro textured hair. I chose to explore how black hair is represented throughout various spaces in history, the notions of beauty by western ideology, black hair as, or part of, pop culture today and the generalized representations and identity for black woman. This practice centres itself on black female subjectivity, black beauty, and often uses hair as an apparatus to identify facets of womanhood. Using both female and male gender I chose to tackle issues of marital status, age, wealth, and rank on the social hierarchy within a community or tribe. Historically, hair has always been a social activity, as it still is today, salon spaces are used as an opportunity for women to socialize and exchange stories and life experiences.



Tell us about yourself. Where are your from, and where do you currently live?
I am a 24-year-old visual art student currently finishing my honours degree at the university of Johannesburg. I was born in Soweto but raised in the Vaal triangle, south of Johannesburg and now living back in Soweto for school purposes.
Art school (and if so where) or self-taught?
University of Johannesburg. I Took Visual Arts as a subject in High School and chose it as a course in Varsity as well.
How did you learn about the Award and what made you want to enter?
One of my Lecturers told me about it in 2nd year so it has been on my Bucket list for Gallery hopping. I follow the Gallery page on Facebook and Instagram, and I also saw the post on the VANSA website. I think the initiative behind it is a great opportunity for emerging artists, I entered last year and made it to the top 40 so that motivated me into entering once again this year after the growth of my concept.
Ibungu Ne Tshitshi Ed. 1/5
What do you think of the StateoftheART Gallery Award as a platform for emerging artists in South Africa?
It is a brilliant way for emerging artists to showcase their talent because a lot of art competitions are very open to pretty much everyone so you find yourself competing against established artists which sometimes supresses new talent because you being compared to a well-known artist working with a similar concept or technique.
Tell us about where you make your work.
I have access to a Printmaking studio in the University where I use the dark room for prepping my cyanotype prints. I also use natural lighting to expose my photographs, so this sometimes enables me to work at home.
What is your key inspiration as an artist?
Seeing women around me assert their own identity, normalising their natural state (weather on TV or a music video). Representation matters, there is always someone watching and absorbing what you do.
Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
Yoh, Not a trend specifically, but I think I am enjoying seeing artist work outside of traditional mediums, for example Cow Mash .
How is your work relevant in a South African context?
My work is created to help black females, like myself, reshape their own identity and representations. There has always been a sense of hierarchy in beauty when straight hair became a symbol of social advantage, which means a better job, and kinky hair became a symbol of oppression. This type of thinking refers to the apartheid laws of the pencil test method that was used to help determine a person’s racial background. Such laws still have an influence in South Africa every time a black schoolgirl gets sent home because her natural hair is known to violate the schools code of conduct.


What do you think South African artists can contribute to the global art market?

Authenticity and diversity. A lot of South African artists made their trademark by depicting parts of their South African identity in their works, the legendary Esther Mahlangu for example. South Africa is rich in culture and diversity.
StateoftheART is South Africa's leading online gallery. How important do you think it is for an artist's career to market their work online and through social media?
The internet is the quickest and most effective way to market yourself as an artist and to also connect with gallery platforms. The internet method enables worldwide recognition which means more opportunity for the artists to be recognised internationally. Having an online profile also allows your target market to have access into seeing the process of how you create your art. Instant communication and feedback from people who are interested in working with you.
How do you feel about the upcoming group exhibition and the other shortlisted finalists’ works?
Since the top 10 announcements has come out, I have received a lot of questions and interest around my work, which is exciting. It is always a great opportunity to have my work viewed by a new audience who challenge my concept around black hair in general, so I am looking forward to the feedback I will receive from viewers. The artists that I will be exhibiting alongside are also remarkably talented, so I look forward to meeting some of them in person.
Woza Sisi Ed. 1/2
Do you have any plans for the coming year?
Yes, I have applied to further my studies by pursuing a master’s degree in fine art at the University of Cape Town to explore my concept further. I also plan on applying for part time job at any gallery to help pay for tuition should I not receive any funding.
If you win the Gallery Award, tell us about what you have in mind for your solo exhibition in 2020?
I have always wanted to do installation piece accompanied by a short film/video I have been working on since last year accompanied by a new set of crowns and cyanotype prints around the concept of black hair representations and informal salon setups in the streets of Johannesburg.
Finally, tell us something surprising about yourself.
I love scrabble.