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Meet Mboma As He Explores The Relationship Between Consciousness And Inanimate Objects

Thando Phenyane, also known as Mboma, could be best described as water; a constantly flowing, adaptable, and unrelenting force with a “let it flow” attitude towards life and through his artistic practice. I asked him what his moniker, Mboma, meant during our conversation, and he told me ‘izithakazelo zakhe’ (clan name), the name of his forefathers, and a name that meant so much to him that embracing it was only natural. He holds the belief that what you call yourself is important, especially when it resonates with people.

“I’ve always been someone who wants to solve real problems outside of my art, and I think there are communities who are deserving of good design ideas. So in a lot of my architectural work, I’m very cognizant of the people I’m designing for because it’s very easy to design for everyone, anyone can design a building, but take that step further and really interrogate who you’re designing for, in all my architectural projects, I make it a point to know exactly who I’m making space for.”

Mboma grew up in Johannesburg where he was exposed to a variety of visual art experiences as a result of his upbringing. He has an analytical and artistic mind, which propelled him to pursue architecture as a career. He gets ideas for new projects by repurposing old ones and envisioning them as digital drawings. The objective of his work is to investigate the relationship between consciousness and objects while being intrigued by and examining the personal and unacknowledged bond that humans share with these objects. With intentions to return to Johannesburg next year, he believes that Cape Town is the ideal place to start something, to establish a reputation for yourself and that staying at home is risky because it’s easy to be comfortable. Following his intuition and allowing himself to be guided led him to become Design Indaba Emerging Creatives 2021 and also an Artist Alliance Incubatee.

Everything I’ve ever achieved up to now I’ve let it happen, and it’s happened because I actually believe in that; I think the universe works with you, you just have to listen,” he says.

On The Transition From Art To Architecture

Physics, maths, history, and the visual arts were amongst his favorite subjects in high school, ones that he believes work for a creative person because as an artist, you need an analytical mind to traverse the world and a textual grasp of the environment you find yourself in. Many proudly South African pop-cultural emblems, such as Drum Magazine, are referenced in his work, symbols that he is cognizant narrate the South African experience.

Choosing visual arts was a very conscious decision in high school, and with architecture, I think, I’ve always been someone who wants to solve real problems outside of my art, and I think there are communities who are deserving of good design ideas. So in a lot of my architectural work, I’m very cognizant of the people I’m designing for because it’s very easy to design for everyone, anyone can design a building, but take that step further and really interrogate who you’re designing for, in all my architectural projects, I make it a point to know exactly who I’m making space for.

Paying Homage To The Working Class Of Johannesburg In His Master’s Dissertation

His master’s dissertation explores the Johannesburg Art Gallery, and the people who occupy that space -the people who go to work there and go home. He challenges the idea of a gallery being a predominantly working space and reimagining it as a place where things are made. He also references Johannesburg as a mining city, a city also known as one of the biggest gold deposits in the world, and talks to archiving phenomenological experience. “You think of an art gallery as an archive, these are the artworks that document life history, historical repository, and then I’m rethinking it as a place that archives bodily experiences. How do you pay homage? How do you archive the working people of Johannesburg is by making the place a place where people work again? That’s the crux of my dissertation.”

Artists and Money Matters

To him, artists commercializing their craft is a unique concept that is sometimes referred to as “selling out,” believing that it has its place and believing that it’s crucial to keep the sacred aspect of your work sacred as well, he wants to ensure that everyone knows who Thando is and Mboma The Practitioner is. He draws inspiration from artists such as Wanda Lephoto and Thebe Magugu, which are the kinds of names he’s attempting to give himself and his subject; creating proudly South African themes that are well-represented on a global scale.



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