The current body of work extends the initial conversation along the theme ‘Isizwe Esimnyama’ which means the black nation in isiZulu. The work is concerned with the notions of identity, civilization and development understood and judged by black South Africans on self and other black Africans. The work therefore juxtaposes that which is perceived as progressive and modern (beliefs put on a pedestal) with that which is perceived as backward (marginalized and demonized – cultures, objects and beliefs). Examples include the debate on culture and religion, western and African weddings, conflicts in perceptions between African and western medical practices, rural homesteads and rapid urbanization in the context of wealth creation, etc. The work essentially asks whether we are indeed progressive or regressive in our choices as society and whether the principle of Ubuntu and a sense of community is still relevant.
This body of work is heavily influenced by Mr Mahlangu’s work experiences as a researcher and facilitator working with both the affluent ad impoverished communities in a society whose government stresses and grapples with the need to eradicate poverty and address inequality. The work therefore looks at identity politics among Black Africans through the lens of acculturation in the aftermath of colonialism and apartheid. This is reflected in how the work plays itself out in identifying nuances on how different forms of formerly marginalized communities grapple with issues of self-identity, progress and what being civilized means within this community and by extension how the new political dispensation has responded to socio-economic needs of such communities. The work comprises of isiNdebele titles as I am Ndebele by birth and I am exploring what it means to be a Ndebele man having grown up in a township.
With over 8 exhibitions and selected as a finalist in four separate Art competitions, Bongani Mahlangu is an emerging artist that has spent a considerable amount of time in the past decade establishing himself as an influential arts researcher and facilitator. He has unselfishly committed the past decade to empowering artists, crafters and designers in the business of arts, product development and design across South Africa. His research endeavors have earned him a BASA award for Leadership and Management in the Cultural Economy. Now he is back in the production of his own art works with a new body of work that is generating tremendous interest on social media platforms and online exhibitions. In 2020 he exhibited at the Johannesburg Fringe and has gone on to have the work procured by the National Art Bank as part of the national collection which was followed by the new acquisitions exhibition titled “tiro ya diatla” in the first half of 2021.
Bongani Mahlangu is currently the Head of the Market Photo Workshop and is a PhD candidate at the University of South Africa’s (UNISA) Department of Life and Consumer Sciences. He further has graduated with a Master of Arts Degree from the University of the Witwatersrand’s Arts and Culture Management unit, and has among other qualifications a Bachelor of Arts in Fine and Applied Arts, and a National Diploma in Fine and Applied Arts.