Blessing Ngobeni in new MOMO Gallery Cape Town
From May 28 until June 15
Let it Be, 2014.
Blessing Ngobeni is the winner of the Reinhold Cassirer Ward 2012. The award is supported by Nadine Gordimer and involves a residency at the Bag Factory, one of Johannesburg’s notable art venues. In bestowing the award on Blessing, The Bag Factory had this to say about his work:
The most profound part of his application is the work itself. His paintings are filled with the irony of the cabaret, sporting the influences of Norman Catherine and Miró, while never forgetting his township roots.
Blessing has studied at Newtown’s Artist Proof Studio and has worked for David Krut Publishing at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. He has also worked at the Michaelis Art Library at the Joburg Central Library and as head puppeteer, puppet show director and trainee cameraman at Red Pepper Pictures. He has exhibited in several group exhibitions, ranging from the Diepkloof library to Johannesburg Central Library and Museum Africa. He was also a first prize and gold award winner at the Gala Ex-Offenders Awards and has exhibited in several group shows at Unity Gallery, including the Sanaa Africa Day exhibition at Moyo’s Zoo Lake.
Blessing’s work consists of a range of found objects and waste materials, including magazine cuttings and found cardboard canvasses. The rationale behind the use of these found materials is two-fold. Firstly, the materials themselves are a comment on the difficulty young artists experience trying to enter the formal world of art without the socio-economic momentum behind them that enables them to secure basic materials. Secondly, the materials are purposefully selected for the role they play in the artist’s life. The magazine cuttings, for example, are taken from art magazines and feature the work of artists that have played a conceptual and aesthetic role in the artist’s own development. These cuttings are layered into his art at various depths, with many of them unrecognisable to the naked eye.
Devilish Man Act, 2014.
Thematically, Blessing’s work is primarily concerned with the inherent duality of the relationships city residents have with their environment. On the one hand the people living in the city hold an exterior identity characterised by music, sex, entertainment and fast lifestyles. But this exterior face masks extreme challenges in managing the basic elements of daily life. The pressures of crime, poverty, transport and employment compound the intensity of the surface level relationships between individuals in the city, generating much of the passion – in positive and negative senses – so obvious in the city.
Blessing Ngobeni was born in Tzaneen, Limpopo. His was a broken home that was signified by a strained relationship with his step-father. He left Limpopo for Joburg aged ten years old and his departure had predictable consequences. He fell in with a bad crowd and was soon involved in crime. Five years later he was arrested for armed robbery and spent close to six years in prison.
In prison Blessing took stock of his life and action to correct its trajectory. He started studying his matric and was exposed to the Tsoga (Wake Up) Arts Project. With the help of warders and two particular friends who brought him art materials, he began to pursue his art seriously – with impressive results.
(text website artist) (Courtesy MOMO Gallery Cape Town)