Home is the theme of this year’s Nando’s Creative Exchange 2019, in partnership with Spier Arts Trust. The group exhibition at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town displays works by four emerging artists, Adolf Tega, Thembalethu Manqunyana, Robyn Pretorius and Wonder Marthinus, and will run until 16 January 2020.
Nando’s Creative Exchange was first established in 2011 to recognise emerging, South African fine artists who demonstrate exceptional ability. The four artists selected for this programme enjoy the opportunity to take part in an exhibition sponsored by Nando’s, as well as mentorship opportunities and sponsored art materials.
“Nando’s Creative Exchange aims to help artists to develop their careers through assisting them to improve their business skills, providing access to market and exposing them to gallerists, buyers and the art industry,” explains Kirsty Niehaus, who heads up the Nando’s art initiative. “Nando’s is the largest collector of Southern African art in the world, with more than 21 000 works in our collection, and our aim with our art and creativity programmes – which have grown to include design and music – has always been to develop and showcase local talent in a way that makes a difference in the world.”
This year’s Creative Exchange artists have been mentored by Sepideh Mehraban, an Iranian-born artist, working and living in Cape Town. She is currently completing a PhD in Fine Art at Stellenbosch University. In 2018 as part of her PhD research, she curated an exhibition in gallery MOMO in Cape Town and Johannesburg titled Cape to Tehran: Re-imaging and re-imagining personal history in Post-Apartheid South Africa and Post-Revolutionary Iran. In Mehrahan’s academic work, as well as in her personal projects, there is sensitivity toward recent history in Iran with parallels to be found in South Africa.
“Over the course of the last few months I’ve had the privilege of mentoring these four artists’ journey as part of Nando’s Creative Exchange programme,” she says. “Seeing their vision and the power of art to narrate stories that haven’t been heard yet was an exceptional experience. The collaborative processes of monthly studio visits and having conversations around our practice created new spaces for thoughts and imagination. Surely, these creative activities made us all feel at home – free from where we are coming from and our social-political background. The sense of belonging and having the freedom to share our experiences gave us agency. The universal language of art vanished uncanny moments of feeling dislocated and rather felt “homely”.”
The artists are: Adolf Tega, Robyn Pretorius, Thembalethu Manqunyana and Wonder Marthinus.
Tega finds inspiration in the mundane – the often-overlooked aspects of life. He is fascinated with the density and scale of these masses – whether they are moving across borders in search of a better life or commuting together on their way to work. In keeping with this, his artworks are often times populated densely. He has a particular interest in documenting the faceless and often disregarded masses that populate our environment.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Tega obtained a Diploma in Fine Art from the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 2006, specialising in painting and sculpture. In 2007 he relocated to Cape Town, where he joined the Good Hope Art Studios. He has participated in a number of group exhibitions and held his first solo exhibition, Africa Without Borders, at The AVA Gallery in Cape Town in 2012.
Painting from the heart, Thembalethu Manqunyana’s work is inspired by Western theory and African art. He is also influenced by the Neo-expressionism master, Jean-Michel Basquait and Pablo Picasso’s Cubism period.
A painter, sculptor and printmaker, Thembalethu is a performer, researcher and educator in art. His aim is to create opportunities and provide support for artists in disadvantaged communities. He describes his style as ‘free form’ and paints in oil and mixed media using bright colours.
Manqunyana lives in Port Elizabeth. He studied art and design at Russell College and practiced fine at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Art School. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhodes University in 2013. In 2015, he won The Most Promising Artist at ArtEC, Eastern Cape. His latest exhibitions include Spirit of the Heart, held at MOK Gallery in Stellenbosch in 2018, an exhibition at GFI art gallery in November 2018, and Stemme/Voices/Amazwi, a group exhibition revisiting South African history, at MOK Gallery in 2019.
Wonder was a dancer until his life descended into chaos after a tragic accident left him severely injured. Unable to practice his craft, he eventually found himself living like a dweller on the slopes of Table Mountain.
After a chance meeting with an artist at a soup kitchen in 1995, Marthinus was introduced to Greatmore Street Studios and his art career began. His paintings walk a tightrope between being representational and abstract. He makes use of photographic material, but his images are manipulated to such a degree that they become entirely independent from the sources. Some of these images leave the viewer with absolute freedom to interpret the work as they see fit.
Marthinus lives in Cape Town, where he was the artist-in-residence at Greatmore Studios from 1999 to 2007. In 2005 / 2006, he travelled to Switzerland for a residency in Basel. He has participated in group exhibitions locally and abroad, including Malerei (2013) at Kunstverein Schallstadt in Germany, The Artist’s Prism (2015), Eclectica Modern Gallery, Cape Town, and Cape to Tehran Johannesburg and Cape Town at Gallery MOMO (2018). His work forms part of a number of art collections including Spier, Hollard, SAB and Nando’s UK.
Born in Belhar, Cape Town, Pretorius was exposed to art at a young age. She has showcased her urban inspired artwork in New York in 2014 and was one of seven artists chosen to participate in a New York Trade Mission in association with the South African Government Trade and Industry Department. Near the end of 2015, Robyn left the retail industry to become a full-time artist and invested more time in research and in a significant body of work.
Since then she has participated in several group exhibitions and extended her reach into the local market. In 2016 showed her first solo exhibition at Youngblood Gallery and in 2018 she attended her first art residency at Glo’art, Global Art Centre in Belgium. This experience allowed her to experiment, explore and refine her practice.
“My portraiture is driven by the belief that the more we celebrate different experiences the more we are able to feel connected,” she says. “The ethos of my work is encapsulated by the quote: ‘Art exists so that we know we are not alone’.”
Robyn was commissioned to create a portrait of Muhammad Ali by the South African Mint in celebration of the Krugerrand’s 50th anniversary. It was exhibited at the FNB Joburg art fair in 2017 and is now part of the South African Mint’s private collection.