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No bull, Ka Zenzile pushes boundaries of what's considered art

Artist uses, among others, cow dung in his paintings

Visual artist Mawande Ka Zenzile.
Visual artist Mawande Ka Zenzile.
Image: Supplied.

Visual artist Mawande Ka Zenzile is pushing artistic boundaries by fusing cow dung and different paintings on canvass to tell his childhood stories. 

Ka Zenzile, who hails from Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape, seems to have found his niche and makes no mistake to assume that his art stinks. 

His latest series of work titled Ayinethi Iyadyudyuza, which means it doesn’t rain but it pours, is currently on display at Stevenson Gallery in Joburg until Saturday. He combines cow dung (ubulongwe) with oil paint, oil stick and gesso on canvass.  

The exceptionally talented artist presents huge pieces which are dominated by dark colours like brown and green. The striking pieces that are on display include Labour of love, Deterrence, I love You Unconditionally and Against What You Not, among others.

Mawande ka Zenzile is exhibiting at the Stevenson Gallery in Johannesburg.
Mawande ka Zenzile is exhibiting at the Stevenson Gallery in Johannesburg.
Image: Supplied

In the exhibition, Ka Zenzile aims to challenge traditional notions of art and the limits of perception. Drawing from isiXhosa mythologies and legends, as an alternative modality, he explores the ways in which these narratives shape our understanding of the world.  

“The title of the exhibition derives from a story I once heard in my village while I was growing up. It is about a tikoloshe (a dwarf-like mystical creature) who said that one rainy day it entered one of the homesteads in my village and shouted: 'Ayinethi iyadyudyuza!', referring to the pouring rain outside. This is one of those stories of which you will often hear different versions being told in different villages,” he explains.

“As an imposter in the creative space or 'white cube', I seek to disrupt the status quo and question the idea of what it means to be an artist. Drawing inspiration from mythologies and folklore, I create works that transcend the boundaries of time and place, inviting viewers to rethink their preconceived notions of the world around them.”  

Ka Zenzile explains that through the use of unconventional materials and techniques he hopes to push the boundaries of what is considered art. 

“I invite viewers to explore new possibilities and perspectives. Whether using cow dung, oil sticks, mixed media or unconventional forms, my work seeks to challenge and inspire, offering the audience different ways of seeing beyond the limitations of their own perception.

"In Ayinethi Iyadyudyuza! I invite viewers to join me on a journey of discovery and exploration, as we navigate the intersection of art, mythology and human experience. Through my work, I hope to inspire others to look beyond the confines of traditional art history and embrace the limitless possibilities of the creative space.”

Ka Zenzile has a Master's degree in fine art from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town. He won the Tollman Award for Visual Art in 2014, the Michaelis Prize in 2013 and was shortlisted for the inaugural Norval Sovereign African Art Prize in 2022.  

Born in 1986, he has had solo exhibitions and has participated in group exhibitions both locally and internationally. He has exhibited in places like Ava Gallery, Cape Town; Stevenson X Kiang Malingue, Hong Kong; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town;  and Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean in Mauritius, among other places.

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