The winner of the 2022 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition, Mondli Mbhele, will hold his first solo exhibition, “Ingoma Yothando”, alongside the Sasol New Signatures 2023 exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum from 7 September to 29 October 2023.

Hailing from Cato Manor, Durban, Mondli Mbhele’s artistic journey began with a  a year-long visual art program at the Bat Centre as well as participating in the Velobala Weekend Classes hosted by the Durban University of Technology.  Mbhele is also a member of the Amasosha Art movement.  This collective of young Durban artists not only nurtured his creativity, but also aims to instil a sense of professionalism and unity among fellow artisans.

In 2022, Mbhele was announced the overall winner of the prestigious Sasol New Signatures Art Competition with his vibrant and thought-provoking piece, “Iphasi nesiphesheli.” His debut solo exhibition, “Ingoma Yothando,” is a profound exploration of transformation within South Africa’s youth. Translated from isiZulu, “Ingoma Yothando” means  “Song of Love,” which serves as the thematic cornerstone of his work.

Mbhele’s work questions transformation in the life of people in South Africa, specifically the youth. His  creative vision is deeply rooted in traditional dances and their accompanying music. Most of these dances are performed during different ceremonies such as the introduction of a new family member, initiations for young men and women, weddings, funerals, even harvest seasons as a way to pay tribute to those who went before.  These dances can be used as a vehicle to recall the past in order to have balance in one’s physical and spiritual life, both in the present and in the future.  These dances were passed down from generation to generation. Mbhele’s concern is with the preservation of these traditions in an era where technology and social media threatens to overpower the fabric of society and the rituals which have provided guidance.

The medium of fabric collage resonates with Mbhele’s interpretation of daily existence. Fabric covers our bodies, while boosting our confidence and providing a canvas for each day,” he explains. He realised that these offcuts have different qualities and value or worth, but when discarded they become a metaphor for a state of vulnerability.  By collecting and using these offcuts, he creates a new dialogue between that which is discarded and its worth.

Sasol’s Art Curator, Cate Terblanche, further explains “The use of fabric offcuts in Mbhele’s work is significant.  The fabrics are vibrant and colourful, and when experienced as a garment or other object, they convey a feeling of individuality, style and cultural pride.   However, the intricate use of offcuts to form a rather disjointed and unsettling tapestry of colliding images results in a poignant statement about contemporary society and its preference for instant gratification, slavish dedication to social media and disregard of traditional values and rituals.”

Mbhele’s solo exhibition, “Ingoma Yothando,” will coincide with the Sasol New Signatures 2023 exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum. The winners of the 2023 will be announced on  Wednesday, 6 September 2023.  Their works will be showcased in the exhibition of the 118 works selected by judges across South Africa. Each artwork stands as a testament to the nation’s diverse artistic tapestry, highlighting the richness of contemporary expression.

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