Challenging the Status Quo

My name is Sphephelo Mnguni, I’m a young professional South African contemporary artist from Durban. In 2016 I completed my degree in Fine Art at the Durban University of Technology, and I’m now a full time practicing artist.

I do multimedia art and I’m also known for doing street art in Durban, I’ve done a number of murals in the city. I’m also interested in installation art, because it offers me a room to merge diverse artistic modes of expression. My work interrogates socio-political issues, and social classification from a black standpoint in a democratic South African society.

21457705 827681777389921 2353001107310060202 o

My concepts begin as collages first, and then they progress to films, paintings, drawings, and art installations. I have been exploring collage since I was about six years old, and what I like about this particular technique is the quickness it grants me when I’m constructing creative ideas and I can also get very surreal with my ideas in this medium.

I recently had a public installation titled Compositionz at TheOtherRoom Durban, the idea behind Compositionz in particular was inspired by the culture of traveling through public transport on a daily basis from Umlazi Township to the city. I have been journeying the city of Durban back and forth as a kid back in the late nineties using taxis till today. Through this social experience I’ve been exposed to different cultures and race groups in Durban. I think it’s interesting how an environment develops when a taxi travels from an underprivileged space to a more developed social setting, it’s a reflection of our political landscape and the status quo.

IMG 2918

I was under construction for four weeks mounting wood boards on the gallery walls, and simultaneously collaging the mounted surfaces with paper cut-outs from the magazines I had been collecting before I started assembling the installation. My concept was a replication of a shack in an art space, introducing a diversity of observers to this informal structure when they enter the TheOtherRoom. The paper cut-outs weren’t randomly collaged on the panels, all pieces were consciously juxtaposed to convey specific connotations and ideas.

My installation was intentionally constructed in a suburban area, this deliberate decision was meant to invite the audience to the township culture in an environment where the majority of people aren’t familiar with realities I portrayed.  I also displayed a film and digital collages just to add meaning, representation, and more detail into the setting.

21640720 827681927389906 7884814492954990278 o

I think the opening of Compositionz was a success, and it was beautiful to see diverse South African races gathered in one space and making commentaries on the issues we’re facing currently.

Compositionz is my first solo project after university, and it’s a first of many contemporary art projects ahead. I want to do more art shows, street art, and art residencies outside of Durban before I go back to the university to do a masters degree.  

With regards to motivation I’m generally inspired by creative individuals outside my field of practice and skateboarders too, more than being an artist I also wanted to be a skateboarder in my teenage years but I couldn’t pursuer that dream because we didn’t have the facilities in the black communities then.

South African skateboarders like Dlamini Dlamini and Khule Ngubane are important to the youth of colour, they don’t only inspire me but a whole generation and they’re definitely kasi influencers. In the music industry Okmalumkookat is absolutely my inspiration and his also real definition of ikasi.

He and I are both from Umlazi Township, and seeing him doing well gives me hope and it inspires a lot of kids in my neighbourhood to be better than our environment.

In conclusion, I feel incredibly honoured to be the #iKasi Influencer for the month of October. I think it’s a huge platform for aspiring artists especially in country where big established brands don’t really collaborate with visual artists. And I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for collaborations with other creative individuals from different fields within the creative industry, and it’s a culture I want to see happening more in South Africa going forward.


Instagram: Sphephelo Mnguni

Facebook: Sphephelo Mnguni




Written by Sphephelo Mnguni