Durban visual artist Mondli Mbhele wins 2022 Sasol New Signatures

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Full-time artist Mondli Mbhele (28) from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal has been announced as the winner of the 2022 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition. Mbhele walks away with a cash prize of R100 000 and an opportunity to have a solo exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 2023. 

Mbhele won the coveted title for his work titled Iphasi nesiphesheli, which is part of a bigger series titled Umlando uyaziphinda. This is an isiZulu phrase, meaning “history repeats itself”.

The series of mixed-media works is inspired by various iconic events from South Africa’s history.  In his winning work, Mbhele explores the dynamics of protests in contemporary South Africa. The brightly coloured collage is a snapshot of an ominous moment in a protest wherein a person is lying lifeless on the ground, yet no one seems alarmed.

Sasol has been the proud sponsor of the New Signatures competition for 32 years, which was established by the Association of Arts Pretoria in the late 1960’s.

“For emerging artists, the challenge remains the same: breaking into a very competitive, ever-evolving field. Sasol is honoured to play a role in providing opportunities for emerging artists to showcase their work.  This year we had an unprecedented number of entries, which reinforces the need for a platform such as this. It also highlights the depth of talent and creativity across South African society,” said Elton Fortuin, Sasol Vice President: Group Communications and Brand Management.

Pfunzo Sidogi, Chairperson of the Sasol New Signatures Competition, said: “This year, we received over 1,000 entries from the seven regional judging rounds, the highest number of submissions in the competition’s long history. We were particularly encouraged by the increased number of entries received from artists who did not attain formal university art education. This speaks volumes of the creative energy and passion to produce art that exists in all quarters of the country, and it is critical that we provide platforms for this creativity to be seen and celebrated”.

Omolemo Rammile from Bloemfontein was crowned runner-up and awarded R25 000 for her work entitled Mére célibataire (single mom), which pays tribute to her mother and acknowledges the personal sacrifices she makes on a daily basis as a sole provider and breadwinner for her twin daughters. Bread is universally considered a staple food source. The artist uses embossed bread tags to symbolise the ‘daily bread’ her mother buys to feed her family. The multiple imprints of the bread tag on the paper are akin to the lasting impact and inner mark that the mother’s love has left on the artist and her family.

The 5 Merit award winners are:

Rohini Amratlal (Durban)
Unveiling the archive
Epoxy resin, wood, ‘Icansi’ (grass mat)

Linde Kriel (Bloemfontein)
[REST]ROOM
Copperplate etching

Malik Mani (Cape Town)
From the concrete grew a rose
Pencil on Arches paper


Herman Pretorius (Pretoria)
Instructures
Archival prints & computer installation

Andrea Walters (Durban)
#OverMyDeadBody 1 Sunlight soap & Perspex

#OverMyDeadBody 4
Hospital gurney, embroidered shroud & speaker

Each Merit Award winner received a R10 000 cash prize.

“The judges at both the regional and final judging round were inspired and impressed by the diversity of narratives and boldness in artistic vision evident in some of the submissions. My sincerest appreciation goes to all the judges who served on the various panels this year. Your professionalism and exceptional knowledge, and experience are evident in the calibre of artworks that made it into the catalogue. But the biggest acknowledgement goes to every artist who entered the competition this year. Your creativity, passion, and commitment to artmaking are priceless. The incredible turnout of entrants bodes well for the current and future vitality of art in South Africa. Onwards with the spirit of creativity. All sectors of South Africa are desperate for it,” added Sidogi.

Supernature: Simulacra, the solo exhibition by multidisciplinary artist Andrea du Plessis and winner of Sasol New Signatures 2021, will also be unveiled at the Pretoria Art Museum. This exhibition is a deepening of her research into the sublime experience and the complex relationship with nature in an age marked by technological augmentation and simulation. As an extension of the Supernature series, Du Plessis began in 2020; the work features an exploration of emerging technologies in combination with traditional oil painting to create interactive, immersive realms as well as an encyclopaedia of hybrid lifeforms. Supernature: Simulacra aims to offer the viewer an opportunity to consider our interconnectivity with the natural world and examines the possibility of reconnecting to nature via technology.

“On behalf of Sasol, we congratulate all the winners of the 2022 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition, as well as those whose works were selected for this exhibition, and wish them all the best for the future. We also extend our gratitude to the Association of Arts Pretoria for their dedication and hard work, as well as to our partners, the City of Tshwane, the Pretoria Art Museum and Stuttaford Van Lines, for their continued and loyal support,” concluded Fortuin.

Andrea du Plessis’ solo exhibition and the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition exhibition, featuring the work of the 2022 winners and finalists, take place at the Pretoria Art Museum from 25 August until  2 October 2022.  All the finalists are included in the highly respected competition catalogue. The full exhibition is also available to view virtually on the website.

Details: www.sasolsignatures.co.za


The award winners share the inspiration behind their winning pieces:

Overall winner: Mondli Mbhele – Durban
Iphasi nesiphesheli

“This work submitted is inspired by South African historical events that share ideas with events that have happened since 28 years of democracy in South Africa. This artwork was inspired by Sharpeville’s 21 March 1960 Anti-pass law event and the 2020 Covid19 events/ laws regarding vaccination cards and face masks. I saw that both of these share the same ideas in terms of accessibility.

Runner-up: Omolemo Rammile – Bloemfontein
Mére célibataire (single mom)

“I created this work late last year as part of my multimedia drawing project. My mother always kept bread tags in a box and told me I could use them one day for my art. When I was creating my multimedia artwork, my lecturer said, “think outside of the box,” and I immediately thought about the bread tags she kept. I somehow tried to find a way of connecting the bread tags to my mother to formulate a concept. This work made me start reflecting on my upbringing, my mother’s tremendous role, and all the efforts she made. That’s when I realized that the bread tags symbolize the sacrifice she has made as a single mother raising me together with my sister; hence there are two embossings. I created this work to honour and pay tribute to my mother, all mothers, single parents and breadwinners that put their life’s desires on hold to feed families and provide for them. It comments on the seen yet unseen sacrifices that are normalized. With the embossing imprints, I aimed to highlight the lasting impact and mark the sacrifices have on their families. This work is quite personal to me, and being able to share my story with South Africa is really what I think is the beauty of it all.”

Merit: Rohini Amratlal – Durban
Unveiling the archive

“I felt that the technique and knowledge of weaving grass mats are slowly diminishing. I learned this process of weaving grass mats from my friend’s mother, and it is something I hold close to my heart because she harvests the grass and creates these mats to sell and earn a living for her and her family. I believe these works lose valuable knowledge when placed in museums behind glass. So many stories are being lost and undocumented. Hence, I would like to revive this culture of weaving mats which plays a pivotal role in many people’s lives. And to keep my relationship and connection with my friend’s mom alive.”

Merit: Linde Kriel – Bloemfontein
[REST]ROOM

“I created this piece for a project we were doing at university. The theme was “borders”. At that time, people were attacking the transgender community on social media. This was relatively fresh in my mind. People post sentences like” I don’t want to share a bathroom with a man”. These people are isolating borders between the transgender community and their right to feel “comfortable” and welcome in society. I had never done a copper etch at this point, so I thought that I should also work with a new approach to my art. Instead of working with my own gender identity or sexuality, I decided to rather investigate something that I can’t say I’ve experienced. Etching, to me, is a cold medium, and I felt that it would have a strong link to a public bathroom. So that is how I ended up investigating and creating one of my favourite works.”

Merit: Malik Mani – Upington
From the concrete grew a rose

“It is a beautiful thing to witness how someone can rise from a life of hardship and struggle. To become the best version of yourself in the most challenging situations. It is very rare to witness something like that. As an artist, when you do get the opportunity to witness such greatness, it is my job to tell stories like that through my art, to give people hope and something to believe in. That’s where my inspiration came from in this piece “From the concrete grew a rose”.”

Merit: Herman Pretorius – Pretoria
Instructures

“My artwork, Instructures, is a computer program I created to explore the endless and diverse outcomes when a minimal and straightforward set of instructions are followed to build structures out of cubes. Even though the program is focused on generating unique structures, the additional variations in scale, composition, colour, viewing angle and drawing style create an even wider array of generative outcomes. Some outputs are recognisable as three-dimensional isometric drawings, whilst others are more abstract. The unique artworks are also meant to be used as points of departure for creating new artworks using methods of drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpting, etc. My aim with Instructures is to strike a balance between traditional art and the more technical nature of computers and programming art by blending visual cues from both disciplines. I hope that the works can be appreciated by audiences from both these worlds.”

Merit: Andrea Walters – Durban
#OverMyDeadBody 1 & #OverMyDeadBody 4

“The #OverMyDeadBody exhibition interrogates the ongoing perception that it is acceptable for a man to punish a woman through violence or death. I am compelled to draw attention to the women who continue to die in SA at their partners’ hands. The names keep coming with frightening intensity.”

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