Xolani Mbonani


It’s quite an artsy fartsy move, to take the most extreme route, to reach your personal dreams. Artists can sometimes get married to their ideas, become oblivious to the strain they’re putting on themselves and those who care for me.

I reminisced on a Jay Electronica verse that he spat on a Chance The Rapper song, How Great, when I heard the story of artist Xolani Mbonani from Kwa-Thema.

In pursuit of their dreams, artists can be quite selfish in how they would shun any advice that differs from the way they see things because of their perfectionist nature. Life never dances to our plans’ tune- it really jives to beat of its own drum, no matter how much we may force it to the dance floor with us. This, brings so much pain and frustration to artists and many creatives, who would have quit a boring nine-to-five or not even searched for one, because of their focus on this big dream they have. Depression, anxiety and for some, suicide are the domino effects when things aren’t going as they had envisioned.

Free spirits-1.2x1m (ACRILIC on paper) 2018. By Xolani

Talking to Mbonani, one gets a different picture of a creative individual. Most artists are idealists, but the Kwa-Thema native is also a realist in how he approaches life. Artists who aren’t even as skilled as he is, would not even dare look for a job because of their ideals. But Mbonani, who holds a three year print making certificate with Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg which he acquired during 1999- 2001, holds down two jobs.  “I’m currently an Estate Agent at Selcourt Estate under Similan Properties. I’m doing two job because of my family,” says the married father of two.

He may have sold you a house, or will in the future, but Mbonani also has an abode in the art space. “I have a studio at August House, studio 1, first floor,” he tells me.

“I paint from the heart. Mainly African portraiture. I’m currently making works that depict my cultural heritage.”

My Ndebele culture -1.2mx1m (ACRILIC on board) 2018. By Xolani

That idea, stuck-out when I first encountered his work, way before I spoke to him. His work is intentional in its  celebration of Africa and its people. “I went to the mountain (initiation school) too many things happen there, stuff that I cannot tell anyone verbally but by means of artwork,” he says.

point of view-1.2x1m (mixed media on board) 2018. By Xolani

Art is about that. Expressing self. Someone will connect to the work because it comes from a sincere place that no one human can really filter.

Mbonani uses mixed media (oil, acrylic and pastel among others) then uses canvas, paper and boards to paint on. “But I mainly like to paint on textured canvas, and I also like making dry-point prints or linocuts.”

“What I love more, is making mural art. Because the wall is like the biggest canvas ever. I express myself better on it than on a smaller scale.”

He is currently preparing for his solo exhibition, together with the Springs Art Gallery, for the end of the year. His work can be viewed at his studio at August House or at his home in Springs.

Strange smile1x700cm (ACRILIC on paper) 2018 By Xolani




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