Fine artist Mncedi Madolo turns trash into beautiful art
‘It is inspired by the message that we have survived’
Asisebenze Art Gallery lies inconspicuous in its surroundings on 28 Plein Street in Johannesburg.
A gut-wrenching block away from the epicentre of the Bree Stree, now Lilian Ngoyi Street, gas explosion that shook the mining city’s old bones on July 19 – footage on social media relayed what looked like a scene out of a Michael Bay film, think Transformers.
Since that action-packed day, the road closures in the city have become a nightmare to navigate. What was a seven-minute drive has morphed into a long-suffering 20-minute Waze wield through the gauntlet that is downtown Joburg in the midday.
Founded in 2020, the six-storey Blue Plaque Heritage building was reimagined into the gallery under the tutelage of the City of Joburg as well as owners and art enthusiast Redcon Properties.
“When you get to the Universal Church Building take your first left, here should be a Pep store at the corner. After the second building, turn into the parking garage,” instructs Mncedi Madolo.
The 34-year-old gallery curator and contemporary visual artist is the introspective commentator behind the exhibition titled A Joburg Cleansing. Hanging on the vacant walls are canvassed abstract pieces that feature compositions of mixed media of washed-out newspaper headlines, signage of pop culture food and beverage brands, plus discarded memorabilia.
Other standout pieces in the exhibition include severed Toyota Siyaya taxi cabs collected from a junkyard and rusting iron sculptures of faces and human life. The showcase echoes the message of the city’s resilience while attentively revealing the shafts of its longtime battle with litter.
“It is inspired by the message that we have survived. We have been through a lot, most recently the explosion that had everyone frazzled. We conquered as we always do and resilience has always been that thing that sets us apart from everyone else,” Madolo says.
“As a spiritual person, cleanliness of your environment and of self plays a big part, for instance when one prays regularly. Joburg has a big issue with litter and the aesthetic of downtown Jozi is not pleasing. Instead of simply picking it up and handing people plastic bags, you can change the attitude of the occupants of that space. Changing their perspective in how they view their environment will result in them taking care of it. It goes hand-in-hand with self-love and general awareness.”
Born in Alice, Eastern Cape, to ordained ministers as parents, Madolo made the realisation that should he desire to be taken seriously as an artist and businessman, Joburg had to become his new home. This decision came after a three-month workshop that brought him to the City of Gold.
“My move to Joburg in 2017 is as a result that the fine arts are not a formal field. We are business people and we fit in more as entrepreneurs than anything else,” Madolo says.
“Johannesburg is a melting pot where you meet people from many different places. I came here to do a workshop that was meant to take three months and I never left. This was where I needed to be if I wanted to be an active participant in the contemporary art scene."
“Asisebenze Art Gallery is a communal work building for fine artists. It houses about 32 artists, which in essence is 32 businesses and the criteria to be in the building is that artists need to have a visible career in the fine arts. Many of the residents are full-time artists. This unique way of life brings us closer as people and as a community.”
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