Thembalethu Manqunyana – Ingcingani – 1-11 October 2021

Thembalethu Manqunyana – Ingcingani – 1-11 October 2021

Ingcingani – Voices from Within

Opening 1 October 2021 at 17h30

Showing until 11 October 2021

SPACE Modern

RSVP at [email protected]

Artist Statement:

After various attempts at finding my own visual language and personal artistic style had yielded little, and while dabbling with all sorts of technical approaches, I decided to explore Western texts that analysed artistic methods and unpacked historical schools, like Neo-Expressionism and Cubism.

While I grappled with this process of discovery, I knew that my African identity was an indelible part of my style. The same energy of West African masks that influenced the Cubists, inspired and comforted me. My search for my artistic and visual voice always led me outside myself — and into these texts, their histories and the movements they inspired — drawing what I found there back into unique interpretations and methods which fixed my quest onto canvas.

There was stillness, as even the most vigorous search for my voice relied upon spending time listening to, and closely observing, what other people say or do… particularly modern artists. My dive into Cubism and Neo-Expressionism led me to the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Blessing Ngobeni. Particularly, how they exploded the boundaries — painting outside of particular schools or movements. Neither of them are firmly Cubist or Neo-Expressionist, they are their own thing entirely.

Their work and courage to be different inspired me to take the leap myself — relating to my influences, but through my own methods, interpretations and style. Currently, I am closely exploring West African mask forms and creating images heavily inspired by them. The liberal use of colours attempts to articulate arrangements of character, by intentionally undermining racist tendencies that so easily and often unconsciously manifest in identities captured in portraiture. My art celebrates that lack of racial appeal that otherwise unavoidably defines the identities of my portrait subjects.

–  Thembalethu Manqunyana –



Curator Statement:

Besides the strong visual impact of Thembalethu’s work, I absolutely love the message it sends to the world.

His work represents creative abundance, breaking the rules within the rules, the challenge to modernise our own thoughts, question the ways we see, and revise our morals and actions. For this exhibition, the use of masks representing African mythology and drawing stylistically from West African mask traditions, brings even more focus onto this ethos.

Basquiat’s influence on Thembalethu’s work brings an edge to the street-savvy artist’s creative process, situating it consciously in a revolt against the constraints of established style and the use of a personal visual language that delivers social commentary while serving as a tool for introspection and reflection on identity.

By coaxing the vibrant energy of the Cape Town scene onto canvas, Thembalethu shares his personal life experiences — physical and psychological — with us, as if they are each a self-portrait. With such thick storytelling, authenticity and vulnerability radiating from the canvas, each image leaves us enriched by an intimate glimpse into the mind of this luminescent artist.

– Jozua Rossouw –