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Unathi Mkonto’s ‘Boys Of South Africa’, Vol. 2

Unathi Mkonto - Boys Of South Africa

 

Volume 1 of Unathi Mkonto’s visual documentary, Boys of South Africa, was a study in simple line drawings using cricket as a loose theme. The series of drawings were shown in a one-night-only exhibition curated by Skattie Celebrates at Blank Projects last year and accompanied by a digital zine.

 

This being his first exhibited output as a visual artist, Unathi’s background is actually in architecture – he studied at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and went on to work for an architectural firm. However, he never quite found his place in the industry saying “I was a rebel at architecture school, until my very last job. It’s over now and I’m proud.” Later he moved to Johannesburg to pursue another of his interests, fashion, a field he found to be  much more suited to his nature. It wasn’t long ago that we shared his most recent collection, featured in a gorgeous and otherworldly shoot by Kope | Figgins.

 

Though he is practicing as a multi-disciplinary artist in his own right, Unathi currently spends his days working as an assistant and costume designer at the studio of Athi-Patra Ruga. “I don’t know anyone who can do what Athi does,” he says, “I am only now starting to get into the action. At the studio we are constantly working with the body and creating campaigns for tapestries, which is a very ‘fashion’ idea.”

 

Unathi Mkonto - Boys Of South Africa (2)

Unathi Mkonto - Boys Of South Africa (16)

 

Unathi was born in the Eastern Cape town of Peddie and he began drawing when he was a child. This medium continues to form a powerful outlet for him to convey his feelings and he spends “a lot of hours on paper.” Photography, on the other hand, is something that he’s been doing for about three years now and he sees it as a dialogue that is straight forward and immediate. In relation to his style – whether he is designing garments, making illustrations or taking pictures – Unathi says, “I like the idea of ‘now’ and speaking directly to people.”

 

Since his solo show last year Unathi has been working on the next incarnation of Boys Of South Africa and today, volume 2 of the project is being presented at Special Occasion in Cape Town. Following on from the original and existing narrative, he’s used drawing and photography in conjunction with one another and the exhibition text reads as follows: “Unathi finds a playful energy in the game of cricket, whilst transposing its 70s South African political past. In this way he places the game and its turf in a dance with its historical and cultural context in the country.” The series also represents a return to his birthplace and is representative of the fond childhood memories he has associated with the game.

 

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More broadly, Boys Of South Africa is a project in which Unathi’s talents converge and he has a corresponding fashion range which runs parallel to it. Though he views it as an ongoing project it is one that will be ever-evolving with room to grow into something else entirely. For Unathi, in this uncertainty of how things could take shape, is precisely where the art lies.

 

Catch Boys Of South Africa, Vol. 2 tonight from 6-10pm at Special Occasion – Shop 502 Burleigh House, Barrack Street, Cape Town.

 

www.boysofsouthafrica.tumblr.com

 

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