Instagram Heroes: 6 Evocative Painters to Follow on IG

“If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” So said the late great Edward Hopper, and so say we. If one of the functions of art is to pick up where words leave off, another is to transcend words altogether. And perhaps more so than any other, the medium of painting has transcended time, too. There’s a reason certain works continue to circulate in our culture. A resonance, an abiding truth… we cannot help but be moved. In this very spirit, we’re celebrating six of our favourite painters in South Africa this week as part of our ongoing Instagram Heroes series. If you don’t follow them on IG already, we’re sure that’s about to change.

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Wonder Buhle Mbambo

Hailing from the village of Kwa-Ngcolosi in KwaZulu Natal, Wonder Buhle Mbambo met one of his mediums through the remnants of fire. He recounts experimenting with charcoal as a kid, drawing stick figures on the walls of his house. Today, his ethereal work carries forward symbols from his childhood such as the wildflowers that looked like stars, which his grandmother believed to be sacred. Mbambo’s portraits are rooted in place, drawing inspiration from “African soils, gold and the colours of the moon”. Used predominantly to share new paintings or works in progress, Mbambo’s Instagram feed is endlessly inspiring. Follow him @wonderbuhle on IG.

Alice Angela Toich

Alice Angela Toich’s Instagram bio sums it up neatly: “classical hand/contemporary mind”. Her work explores the world she inhabits in contemporary South Africa and abroad through the age-old genres of portraiture, landscape and still life painting. Born and raised in Pretoria, Toich is currently based and making paintings from her home studio in Mowbray, Cape Town. In 2020 she hosted a nationwide challenge on Instagram encouraging people to make art during lockdown under the hashtag of #21DaysOfArtSA. The works created became part of an exhibition entitled While We Were in Quarantine which opened at Chandler House in June and sold out. Follow her @alice_toich on IG.

Banele Khoza

Banele Khoza left his birthplace of Swaziland in 2008 to complete his schooling in South Africa, going on to study fashion design in Pretoria before pursuing his passion in fine arts. Khoza’s paintings have a fluidity to them, with shapely planes of colour coming together to form an expressive whole… like seeing through water. It is through this lens that he explores themes around identity and masculinity. In 2018 Khoza opened BKhz in Johannesburg’s Braamfontein, a gallery and community space that he views as “a platform for creatives to showcase their art with a support system”. Much like his own art, Khoza’s Instagram centers connection – with playful revelations, intimate realisations and wisdom beyond his years. Follow him @banelekhoza on IG.

Lulama Wolf

Having risen to public consciousness thanks to her effortless sense of style, Lulama ‘Wolf’ Mlambo has more recently let us in on another aspect of her creative self… that of the artist. “Art has always been an underlying key in everything I did prior to my decision to practice professionally,” she says in an interview. “It was a gut feeling I eventually had to answer.” Her pared-back, earthy paintings call to mind the art of the ancients, with space and spirituality as the principal themes in her work. Her hyper-visualised characters look deeply into the human condition, exploring the pre-colonial African experience through a contemporary lens. Mlambo’s Instagram has expanded with her own transition from the lifestyle sphere into a more artistic realm, while still blending fashion, art and culture in her perfect minimalist aesthetic. Follow her @lulamawolf on IG.

Amy Ayanda Lester

Amy Ayanda Lester is a practicing artist and musician living in Cape Town. Her expressive paintings are inspired by the flora, colours and textures of the local landscape. Examining her historical ties to the land, Lester explores themes of longing and belonging, painting places both real and imagined… “the body of a mother, a mountain, a field of flowers”. Her Instagram provides an intimate window into her art and life, reflecting candidly on challenges, triumphs, and the moments in between. Follow her @amyayanda on IG.

Zandile Tshabalalala

At once daring and exquisitely tender, the women in Zandile Tshabalala’s paintings are not content simply to be seen… they look back. Born in Soweto in 1999, Tshabalala is currently completing her BA in fine arts at Wits, meanwhile taking the art world by storm. Interested in disrupting the narratives of historical portrait painting, she says in a recent interview, “I have chosen to re-represent the black woman in a more confident, sensual, beautiful manner, touching on the importance of being able to dream, to be, celebrate, and embrace the self as is, unapologetically so.” The arresting work of this rising star demands our attention, and is shared regularly via her Instagram account. Follow her @zandiletshabalala_ on IG.

Are you an Instagram Hero?

If you’re a creator or business owner in Sub-Saharan Africa using IG to grow your practice or build your brand, you qualify to enter our monthly Instagram Heroes awards series. The Creator category includes art, design and craft, as well as creatives and makers across all fields. The Business category is for local entrepreneurs, agencies, start-ups and well-established enterprises. Submit your work using the form below before Friday, 22 January 2021.

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