Mondli Mbhele was born in 1994 in Cato Manor, Durban. He completed a one-year visual art programme at the Bat Centre and attended the Velobala Weekend Classes hosted by the Durban University of Technology, as well as being a member of Amasosha Art movement, a collective of young Durban artists which promotes professionalism and solidarity amongst fellow artists. In 2022 Mbhele won the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition with his work entitled Iphasi nesiphesheli. His first solo exhibition is due to open in September as part of the 2023 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition.
Mbhele’s work questions transformation in the life of people in South Africa, specifically the youth. His body of work for his first solo is entitled Ingoma Yothando, or Song of Love translated from isiZulu. It is inspired by traditional dances and its accompanying music. Most of these dances are performed during different ceremonies such as the introduction of a new family member, initiations for young men and women, weddings, funerals, even harvest seasons, as a way to pay tribute to those who went before. These dances can be used as a vehicle to recall the past in order to have balance in one’s physical and spiritual life, both in the present and in the future. These dances were passed down from generation to generation. Mbhele’s concern is with the preservation of these traditions in an era where technology and social media threatens to overpower the fabric of society and the rituals which have provided guidance.
Mbhele’s medium of choice is fabric collage, as for him it shares similarities with our daily lives. “Fabric covers our bodies, while boosting our confidence and providing a canvas for each day” says Mbhele. Mbhele collects offcuts of fabric from various fusion artists in Durban and Johannesburg for use in his collages. He realised that these offcuts have different qualities and value or worth, but when discarded they become a metaphor for a state of vulnerability. By collecting and using these offcuts, he creates a new dialogue between that which is discarded and its worth.
Mbhele’s solo exhibition will take place alongside the New Signatures 2023 exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum from 7th September – 29 October 2023. A total of 118 works have been selected from around the South Africa to proceed to the final round of judging and will be featured in the competition’s catalogue for 2023.