Thandazani Ndlovu

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THANDAZANI NDLOVU is big, quiet and quite meticulous-like an elephant. A herd of elephants has tight matriarchal bonds, led by the oldest and largest of the female elephants-similar to Thandazani’s upbringing.

The Zimbabwean born artist understands and knows the significance of a home led by a strong woman, so much so that he’s dedicating his first solo exhibition to women, titled Depicting Woman. This of course was inspired by the head of the Ndlovu herd. “My mother, who took over and raised us as a single parent after my father passed away,” Thandazani tells me.

From Depicting Woman

For nearly 10 years it seemed like his passion for the arts was gonna be buried in a nine-to-five he had at a factory. “To provide for my family I designed shoes. The visual arts was my first love and I felt torn not being able to give 100% and dividing my time between both places. I took a chance on my passion and it worked out for the better.”

“I’m inspired by the role my mother played in my life and the role women have in the township and around the world,” says the self-taught artist from Nkulumane Township, in Bulawayo.

Strong woman, depicted here by Thandazani

Depicting Woman opens today at A-Lounge in Nelspruit Mpumalanga, where it’ll run for a month.  “Women are powerful, they are strong and can do anything! Looking at how they raise children manage homes.” Thandazani will have 20 pieces on display for Depicting Woman.

He learnt about dedication and focus during his time in the shoemaking industry, which he still uses today in his art. There’s a sense of abstractness to his work, but with a sharp focus of depicting the emotions of his subject.

Work from Depicting Woman by Thandazani

Although this might be his first solo exhibition, Thandazani got on the scene after creating a series in which he portrayed fading African cultures-which led to several commissioned work, one of which sits in the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. “I will do an exhibition in Gauteng, but [with] a different theme.”

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We’re in no militant warfare, but people are going through the most. But it’s our individual and yet common struggles, which foster these infinite bonds. Like British journalist Max Hastings once said, the only redemptive feature of war is the brotherhood which it forges.

Meet MK, Musa Mashiane and Bongani Xego.  Three brothers connected by their shared fondness of Pan Africanism, art, music and entrepreneurship. But their connection comes to actuality through the Action Painting in Music events. Mashiane the musician, MK the artist and Xego the man behind organic skin care product, RA-ABA.

“For me, what we’re doing now is rather a feeling because we felt each other. For some reason, I feel like MK is me in another body, because all of his dreams and everything else  is the same thing as mine. Even with King Musa, it’s the same thing. There’s a brotherhood es’nga yazi nathi, it’s very deep,” says Xego.

“It’s because we have a common bond and not only that, but we have the ability to enhance each other’s characters uyang’thola. Because a one man army, is no movement,” MK says.

They are a trio of light spoken characters, but the spliff going around the four of us, eases us into conversation. We’re at 4ROOM, busking in the sun-basically a bunch of bearded hippies deep in off kilter discussions emva kwendlu ye four room.  But the place will be unrecognizable this coming Sunday, because of the Action Painting in Music event. Which will feature Adelle Nqeto, Touchline, Mo’Soul and others. The event includes a kid’s creative station, art exhibition and a tour of Tembisa.

King Don Thobela on stage at last month’s Action Painting in Music. He’ll be performing this coming Sunday By Katlego K Tshuma

4ROOM has been in existence for about eight years now, situated in Ethafeni section in Tembisa, 4ROOM Creatives Village is the umbrella company to which includes the house itself as a gallery, a magazine, art education and events (Art Lifestyle) among other things. MK runs and operates the place by himself with a small team. “We haven’t marketed ourselves as a traditional gallery to the world, because we know ukuthi our traditional standards are not the standards of what a traditional (Western) gallery looks like.”

“We started last year around May or June, with (artist) Nkateko Balyoi. We had a private show on June 16, but I think we had two or three shows before that. After that show, Nkateko moved out of the group to do other things,” says MK , detailing the history of Action Painting.  After Baloyi’s departure, the two went on a few months’ hiatus from the project, until later in the year. “We started pushing again late last year, that’s when Thandazani Ndlovu became part of it.”

Mashiane, a seasoned musician, only started coming to 4ROOM last year, but rapidly grew a connection to the place and to MK. Mashiane suggested to MK the concept of “merging the music and the visual art together. Something which, we could invite people to come and watch. Not just an exhibition, but a space where they can experience an artist painting. Starting on a blank canvass and complete in front of the audience.”

They’ve organised four instalments of Action Painting in Music this year, this coming Sunday will be their fifth. Because of the rareness of such a presentation of visual art and music, their product has been demanded and received with warmth in the various places which they’ve graced. Earlier this year they were in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.

They also went to Grahamstown, for the National Arts Festival. “It was like a learning experience. People received us well, professionally even, because we based ourselves in a space where there were a lot of people and we were delivering. People were appreciative-they had never seen it before, getting both experiences as one.”

Musa Mashiane performing at 4ROOM. By Katlego K Tshuma

They say the difference between Nelspruit and the Arts Festival, is that the former was more of a gig because they were expected. “I would say Grahamstown was more of a pop up. They had the Standard Bank showcase stage, of which we did that and everyone was like, shit!” Mashiane says.

Xego says later on that evening, they took a walk to a couple of pubs and restaurants and at one of them, they asked the manager if they could play at the spot. The place is called Major Fraser’s. “That guy gave us a platform and we did about four nights. It became our resident space,” says Mashiane.

They have similar life goals as Pinky and the Bain. “The end goal is very far, but it’s to take the village international. So this is just a rehearsal for that.  But maybe in the next five years we can say we have an end goal,” says Xego.

“What I know is that s’phusha e black excellence. It’s a legacy for our children’s, children’s children,” says Mashiane. While MK has a more somber, and life enriching end goal. “It is something huge and we don’t know what it looks like. It’s to make sure the black man grows bigger than themselves and their fears and learn about their abilities.”

Artists MK. By Katlego K Tshuma

They are planning a final rehearsal of their world takeover, in December, the last Action Painting in Music of the year, at a secret location. “It’ll include some of the people from our previous events. It’s something to look forward to.”

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ART took centre stage at 4ROOM as Sun Xa Experiment was forced to leave because of an emergency, right before their performance.

Billed as the headline act for this past Sunday’s Action Painting at 4ROOM in Tembisa, band Sun Xa Experiment couldn’t get on stage due to one of the band members’ kids being sick. But regardless of that mishap, those who graced the stage gave the audience its money’s worth with their performances.

Thing about 4ROOM is that it allows artists intimacy with their audience and each artist that went on felt like they were singing for you, right in your living room. The sound was crisp with no glitches while the stage and lights set-up would make a stranger doubt that they’re indeed in someone’s four room backyard.

Momemtos band performed well, but one can’t help but feel cheated when guys do cover tracks throughout their set. I’ve been to countless shows at 4ROOM but this past Sunday stands out. There were kids running around the yard, creatives networking and old friends unwinding over great music.

Unwinding at 4ROOM. By Katlego K Tshuma

Armed with his guitar, Musa Mashiane’s highly spirited performances could well be the night’s highlight as it moved people to sit still and absorb the energy he was sharing with his listeners. The artist who hails from Mpumalanga performed twice, his last performance was accompanied by artists Thandazani Ndlovu and MK-their growing collaboration that brings together music and visual art.

Musa Mashiane performing at 4ROOM. By Katlego K Tshuma
The Host: Artists MK. By Katlego K Tshuma

With Mashiane belting out Uku khanya, Ndlovu tells me what inspired his painting that he did during Mashiane’s performance. “I was painting uMdu. But it’s quite abstract. The way he’s dressed…and he’s a free person who doesn’t seem concerned by what people might think of him. I like people like that.”

Killing the mic at 4ROOM. By Katlego K Tshuma

The muse, Mdu Hlangu was pleased with how he was depicted. “It captures the essence of who I am. I love it…I’m sure I’m gonna buy it. If no one beats me to it, this one’s mine.”

“No one told me they were gonna paint me. I hear people say it looks like me…it’s a good thing because I don’t have a mirror in the house,” says Hlangu.

Stationed on a chair, Indlovukazi’s performance added to the night’s intimate mood.Rapper Vortex, who I hadn’t seen on stage in a while, got heads nodding to his Boom Bap sounds. Before and after his performance, Killa Kane was on the decks doing what only Kane does best and that is play great soulful music.


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