The Beautiful Mind Of Menzi Ngobese
“I have a preoccupation with identity, where it stems from and where does it go.”
It is this preoccupation that inspires the work of Durban visual artist Bongumenzi Ngobese.
From a boyhood spent sporting the best wire cars and making clay sculptures of farm animals on riverbanks in his birthplace Nkandla, in northern KwaZulu Natal, to staring directly into the enigmatic eyes of The Mona Lisa in Paris, he has always known he wanted to pursue a career that involved making things, his name is after all Menzi, which means creator.
Enrolling in a technical high school, he initially thought this would be engineering or architecture. However, after matric, always a sceptic of societal norms, and also to challenge himself, he applied to study fine arts at The Durban University of Technology as he “Wanted to try something new”.
After his father passed away, his mother, a teacher, moved the family to Pietermaritzburg in pursuit of a better education for her 3 boys. At the age of 15, Menzi moved to Durban until the rest of the family followed to settle in Newlands West. They were the subjects of his earlier works, as he would capture them during everyday activities in drawings. Recognising his inherent talent, his mother supported his chosen career.
It did not take long for her belief in him to start paying off. In his first year he won an award for outstanding achievement. Although he applied himself from the start, this served as an eye opener for him; that his work made an impact. “I then had that energy in me, that whenever I create a work, it should be perfect”. His competitive streak kicked in and he set a goal to win more awards the next year, which he did. One of his drawings was chosen in the top 100 in the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition.
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