00932 SS

#56 People on the Roof / Taxi Rank Barbecue (Detail)

by Mbongeni Buthelezi

2002. South Africa

Plastic Collage

Mbongeni’s works almost always express a kind of wholeness in the subjects addressed – they are depicting stories. This not only involves the visual impression one receives at first sight but the stories develop when one lets oneself immerse further into the pictures, following the layers of semi-transparent “paints” down to the bottom of the canvas.

The “pictures” are actually living three-dimensional stories densely arranged like plants in a herbarium.

Mbongeni Buthelezi, born in 1965 near Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, grew up as a country boy; herding the cattle of his father he observed how the modern industrial world impacted unto his animals, his rural environment, and even unto his people. At the age of 18, Mbongeni started studying at the African Arts Institute, continued in a teacher training program at Johannesburg Art Foundation, and finished with a diploma in Fine Arts at Witwatersrand University. As he could not afford the expensive materials needed for “proper” painting, he began to experiment with “plastic paints” by melting discarded colored foils with a heat gun onto thick plastic sheets used as roofing material; by this, Mbongeni invented a unique technique resulting in the multidimensional and iridescent beauty of his works.

“This particular work was conceived in 2002 when I was busy doing a big mosaic project at Bree Taxi Rank in Johannesburg. Starting a small sketch I became interested in the guys who were selling “Inyama Yenhloko” (Cow Head) popular with taxi drivers and operators.

They mentioned to me unemployment as the main reason they started selling meat on the streets. One of the many challenges the country is facing eventually got me inspired to do this work.” Mbongeni Buthelezi

Prof. i. R. Dr. Hartmut Frank

Friends of the Iwalewahaus e.V.