A young, bright, and ambitious Nonkululeko – with nothing but a pocket full of dreams and a blank canvas – finds it poetic to be on the opposite end of the spectrum relative to fellow Durban University of Technology alumnus Mfezeko Gumada. From his earlier days curating gallery exhibitions and garnering a KZN Art Gallery residency with his visual contemporaries Karla Nixon and Sakhile Mhlongo, it was equally heartwarming and awe-inspiring to document this chapter of his burgeoning career.
With an eccentric fashion aesthetic and textile-oriented craftsmanship, Mfezeko, known in the Afrocentric arts community as HERUGOON, is a contemporary artist from Flagstaff, Eastern Cape, who moved to Durban in 2014. Gumada, whose work is inspired by “uqongqothwane” (dung beetle), works with various materials to create drawings, prints, and installations curated to introspect about his personal experiences that serve as a memory of the unknown in post-apartheid South Africa.
Mfezeko worked as an assistant curator at the DUT Art Gallery. He runs his own business, specialising in creating one-off garments, custom leather bags, and jewellery. Mfezeko has participated in some group exhibitions in Durban and Pretoria. He was awarded first prize and the Joan Emanuel Floating Trophy for the Annual Members’ Award at the KZNSA Gallery; he was also selected as one of the top 100 in the 2021 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition.
Ahead of the forthcoming Binocular Vision exhibition scheduled to take place from the 22nd to the 30th of October 2022 at Upstairs @Bamboo Art Gallery in Melville, Johannesburg, we caught up with Mfezeko. We unpacked his inspirations, what to expect in his exhibition, his exploration of the intergenerational complexities he shares with his exhibitionists, his love for textiles, and more.
Ah! A reunion of old DUT souls! Thank you for joining us on Moziak! We were often caught between canvases but never investigated what made us paint, draw, sketch or create textile art. So I must ask, what inspires the narrative of your work?
Mfezeko: Aha! A reunion of old DUT souls, indeed! Well, I am inspired by uqongqothwane (Dung Beetle). My work interprets what a dung beetle does by rolling the dung and collecting all sorts of elements in the process. Hence the collage form of weaving mimics that particular form of collecting information and weaving it into an abstract form with stitching as a form of combining cardboard material, ribbon strings, and other media. Abstract material combined is a form of stitching material that is somehow not connected. My work is more textile-based; I am a textile person. I like textile designs, textures, and recycling.
In another form, it’s a spiritual journey where I seek answers to the questions inside me. It’s more of an investigation because even in my spiritual life, I don’t have a name for it. My work is also universal research of different spiritual aspects. Uqongqothwane is a metaphor for my research or theory to my work in search of myself. Some stitches in my work look like compass needles or crosses since I search for myself in every direction.
And this search has led you to the bustling Binocular Vision exhibition, where you will join five other intergenerational artists in exhibiting the complexities of your creative worlds. What pieces of your work do you plan to exhibit?
Mfezeko: INKA THA LOO
- It is an installation piece made out of cardboard pieces wrapped in colourful ribbons. Inkathalo means to care for in isiXhosa. When I created this piece, I was looking at the different ways to show someone that you care for them or celebrate them. So I wrapped them in ribbons like how you would do for gifts, certificates, and medals. Ribbons are also used to spread awareness. I was embracing aspects like cancer, GBV, and the LGBTQIA+ community. Wrapping the objects and allowing them to float was my message and my way of saying that I care and acknowledge the different energies.
IBALA LO BOMI
- Ibala Lo Bomi talks about the stain COVID left us with. The artwork is a form of embracing that stain – the good and the bad of how the situation impacted us. We usually hide or try to get rid of our stains; however, in this work, I say we need to embrace them instead of covering them up.
KANTI SIZIKHULULA NINI
- This is a COVID-19 reflection piece and how it affects our lives. “Kanti sizi khulula nini?” means “when are we going to free ourselves?” It is another abstract piece hence the rooster’s head and long neck. The research was based on different opinions about the virus and us asking when we would be taking off those masks.
- In my work, I borrowed a style from ancient Kemet; you will see figures of Heru (with a falcon head and a human body), Thehuti, or Horus. You will also find Khepri, the one that looks like a dung beetle with a human body.
- “Igqirha lendlela nguqongqothwane,” as Miriam Makeba used to say in a song that links to the knowledge I tap into.
Hmm, this reminds me of the idiom that a picture says a thousand words; I believe an exhibition narrates a thousand stories. Of all the tales captured by your works, which one do you hold near and dear?
Mfezeko: All of them stand out for me because of the theoretical research I have done about them. Practically every piece I have done has been healing for me and an approach or a new device to communicate. They all stand out, but I would like the viewers to answer that question because my work is about healing them by just viewing my work.
Haha. You took the easy way out of the question, but I agree. It is challenging to pick a favourite creation when they all bear a significant meaning to you. Speaking of creations, what is your perspective on the growth of contemporary art in 2022?
Mfezeko: Yoh! That’s a good one. The growth is present and massive because people realise we must be ready to work in a contemporary setup. In the modern world, we must be universal and silence the external voices that limit our ability. COVID destroyed our opportunities as artists, and we are still rebuilding. The growth is wonderful, surprising, impactful, and enlightening because fresh ideas are booming with no limitations. There are negative and positive effects, but it’s a fun roller coaster.
It certainly is. You’ve been gracious with your time, so we thank you! Before you go, can we expect another showcase from you in the near future?
Mfezeko: As a Durban resident, I am a member of the KZNSA Gallery. There is a year-end show called Buzz Art, where my new piece will be showcased. More details to follow towards the end of the year.
Connect With Mfezeko Gumada
Shop Here: KZN SA Gallery.