At just 33 years old, Nompumelelo Ngoma has found a way to successfully explore issues related to femininity, gender and identity through her body of work. It’s no surprise that this well-considered artist became the highly esteemed Cassirer Welz Award Winner in 2016 for her latest work, “THULA MFAZI!” Joburg Style Magazine recently had the opportunity to chat to Ngoma about her work and her recent achievements.
Joburg Style Magazine: Tell us the background behind “THULA MFAZI!”
Nompumelelo Ngoma: The phrase THULA MFAZI! can be loosely translated as ‘shut up woman’ and it also means to take off the heavy load. I use the blanket as a symbol of respect, subservience and strength used by women within the traditional culture. I came across the phrase THULA MFAZI! as a sticker on a taxi cab which I found very offensive but then I dug deeper into the double meaning of the word “thula”, and found a way of responding to this rather misogynistic, commanding phrase. THULA MFAZI! was my first solo exhibition where I explore the female identity within traditional culture and the patriarchal society at large.
JS: Why did you choose to make this statement?
NN: This statement ties up perfectly with my work as it interrogates the patriarchal order set around women identity.
JS: The women’s heads in your painting are mostly covered – and this is a style that is carried throughout, how does this portray your statement?
NN: Not only does the Zulu word “thula” mean silence but it also means to put down the heavy load. Tradition says a woman is required to cover her head as a sign of respect and submission towards her elders and male counterparts. To some women the idea of covering their heads can be burdensome, so the phrase THULA MFAZI! is a play on words to disrupt the complaisant viewing of women’s representation.
JS: With this in mind, what did you want spectators to walk away with after viewing your work?
NN: The viewers are given a moment to ponder upon these accepted norms and to also reflect on who we are as a nation and how history has formed who we’ve come to be.
JS: What does winning the Cassirer Welz award mean to you?
NN: Winning the Cassirer Welz award means the start of endless opportunities in my art career as it has opened so many doors in such a short space of time. Having had my first solo show in one of South Africa’s leading galleries known as Circa of Everard Read, this award by Bag Factory and Strauss &Co. truly has launched my career.
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