Bongani, a mixed media artist from Durban, KZN, calls himself a true African rasta because he lives for ‘one love’. He may be geographically South African but he identifies with the African continent and diaspora as a collective, because he feels that all cultures are informed by histories rooted in Africa.
Originally from Matatiele in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Bongani’s first memories of art as a child include drawings of soldiers and trucks, which were commonplace during the political era that marked his childhood. Bongani was a rebellious student and while he passed all his grades, he focused more on creative activities, much to his mother’s dismay, a nurse, who he describes as particularly scholarly. The closest Bongani comes to politics and militia these days is during his martial arts classes. He feels that politics eat away at selve love and acceptance, which poses a threat to the essence of community.
After working at a sugar factory in KwaZulu Natal for 5 years, Bongani decided to indulge his artistic curiosity and enrolled in the Fine Arts programme at Durban University of Technology (DUT).
Bongani’s daily yoga and meditation practice keeps him connected and inspired. The only time the artist sketches ideas before he creates, is when he’s working on a custom commission. For the most part, Bongani’s ideas translate into form in the artistic moment, while he’s in flow with his creativity. He loves using a mix of textiles and is specifically drawn to wool. The artist sees the sewing and weaving of fabric and wool as an art form that symbolises the path taken by his African ancestors in the transition from tribalism to civilisation.
Bongani originally learned to sew with a view to using the skill to generate an income. His sewn items turned into fashionable pieces and Bongani now enjoys creating custom clothing for clients under his Natty Dread fashion label. Bongani’s exploration into fashion naturally evolved into art.
The artist’s portraiture is often inspired by history’s mythical figureheads, the characteristics of whom he connects to synchronicities that appear to him in equally inspiring individuals of today.
The Durban artist hopes that people can find meaning in his art that is relevant to their own lives or experiences in some way. He is grateful to use art as his freedom of expression and hopes that viewers can find freedom in their own thoughts, through their interpretation of his art.