Fresh Meat: Abongile Sudzumo – A Multidisciplinary Artist on the Rise

Multidisciplinary artist Abongile Sidzumo is a creative on the rise to take note of. Sidzumo creates work that reflects his lived experiences and draws inspiration from memories of his childhood growing up in Langa township.

Sidzumo recently completed a Fine Arts degree at Michaelis School of Fine Art, where he was co-awarded the Simon Gerson Prize in 2019. 2020 started off on a high note for the artist. In March, he was named the winner of the Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize.

We chat to Sidzumo about his journey as an artist, his work and inspiration behind it.

Tell us about your creative background – when and how did it begin?

I started drawing when I was 7 years old, I became fascinated with art after finding out that I could draw. From 2012 when I was in grade 11 I started attending painting classes at Peter Clarke art centre until matric.

Please tell us about the type of work you create.

During my undergraduate in art school, I majored in Sculpture and I became drawn to using found objects as materials for art-making.

How would you describe your style?

My artworks investigate the meaning that can be conveyed through the materials that I used. I often choose to work with materials I’m familiar with. For instance, I have been using leather and pipes to create abstract artworks. Looking at my work there is a juxtaposition of hard pipes and soft leather, also the texture of the materials is an important aspect of my work.
The process of creating abstract work allows me to combine the materials based on my intuition without knowing what will be the outcome of the artwork.

Why was this field of study an option for you?

Since I was in high school I knew I wanted to study Fine art. Deciding to pursue a career in Fine Art was all about taking a risk and following my passion. My family was also supportive but sometimes they worry about how I will survive with art.

Can you share with us some of the themes you explore and engage with in your work?

I see my artistic practice as an investigation of myself by revisiting my personal memories, in order to make sense of who I’m as an individual and also deal with the broader socio-political that influence how we identify ourselves as an individual and as a community. By revisiting events of the past I look at how the history of South Africa has shaped the nature of the present moment, and the way we navigate in the current times that are a sometimes confronted by the unresolved socio-political issues such as land, labour and racial inequality. My work is about the idea of healing of the trauma and transformation of the body from
past experiences.

Where do you draw inspiration from and what keeps you motivated?

I draw inspiration from everyday life, for instance, the various things I see when walking in the streets that I least expected to trigger my mind. Also being in the studio allows me to be in a space where things just manifest with outputting too much question on them.

Who or what are some of your artistic influences?

I’m influenced by a number of African artists such as El Anatsui’s fabric-like wall pieces that are made from bottle caps. The stitching of leather is influenced by Nicholas Hlobo’s work. I also like Kemand Wa Lehurelere’s work that consists of found objects such as school desks, ceramic dogs and chalk drawings.

Can you share some of the projects you have worked on? Which one was your favourite and why?

I enjoyed the videography project that I did in 2018 while doing my 3 rd year. It was challenging since it was my first time making video work, I got to experience the tiring process of shooting and editing a video. Even though it wasn’t a successful project but I would really love to do another video in future.

What has your experience as a student has been like and what are some of the valuable lessons you learnt along the way?

Studying Fine Art can be challenging like any other field of study, it requires dedication and hard work. It was draining psychically and emotionally. In the first few years, I struggled to understand the content of some courses that were mostly about European art. In terms of making art, I think I
learned that as an artist I have to do what I like without worrying if someone likes it or not especially if I know what I’m doing. But its also helpful to be open to criticism because we learn from each other.

What is it that excites you about the South African creative industry?

I think the South African creative industry is showing signs of growth, considering that there are two new museums that recently opened, the Norval Foundation and the Zeitz Mocca. This alone shows that we have art institutions that will preserve African art and make it accessible to the future genetion. There is a wide range of creativity that being explored in various art forms by artists to express their ideas. I think we are in a time where everyone wants to make their own mark by using platforms such as social media to reach to a wider audience.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

Even though I may not have the exact answer to this question but I think my plan is to continue practising as an artist and do art residencies if opportunities come so that I can develop my visual language.

View more of his work on IG.

Between 10 and 5