Dynamic sculptor shows way forward

SCULPTOR Thomas Nkululeko Ngulube began his career in art selling the works of other artists. Today, he owns his own gallery.

Ngulube's recently established gallery is part of a growing trend in Johannesburg, where black people are starting up their own galleries.

Known as Thomarts Gallery, located in Sandton, the space will display and sell the works of local visual artists.

Ngulube says he always wanted to own a gallery after being rejected often by the local galleries. He also believes there there is a lot of red tape involved in how galleries operate.

"Many galleries turned down my work many times, saying my pieces were not what they were looking for. That made me realise that many artists cannot access the space. I did not want to change my style just to accommodate them."

Ngulube is one of the leading local sculptors who uses metal and stone to create their works.

He also does oil paintings and printmaking.

So far in his career he has exhibited sculptures, paintings and prints at venues across Gauteng. Born in Barberton in Mpumalanga, but raised in Zimbabwe and Tanzania, Ngulube began selling art in Kenya.

When his parents returned home in 1994 from exile he continued with his passion for selling art.

"I started out selling other artists' works and made money out of that. The art industry became sophisticated in the sense that art buyers would want a certain piece. My people could not deliver. I realised that I might as well do it myself."

Ngulube says he started painting in 1993 and gave himself a year to learn the craft. After a year he started exhibiting his work in public for scrutiny.

"I started selling my work from the boot of my car. I would go around knocking on doors to sell my works and some people bought them."

Asked what owning a gallery space demands, he says: "Planning, faith and a combination of art skill and hard work."

Ngulube has exhibited at the Unity Gallery, Birchwood Hotel, Watercolour Society, Sue Orpen Gallery, Killarney Gallery, Dastkari, Museum Africa, Bamboo in Melville and Consology - Corporate Collection.