Portrait of a self-taught artist

This is Ndikhumbule Ngqinambis favourite painting. Radio Waves, he says, shows the power radio and media have to shape ideas.

Table View artist Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi’s paintings sell for between R30 000 and R90 000, they have been exhibited at prestigious art shows around the world and grace the walls of top galleries.

Ndikhumbule, 41, was born in Philippi. His mother raised him after his father died when he was 13.

He smiles as he thinks about his father, saying, “I miss that guy. He was a good man.”

From a young age, Ndikhumbule always had an interest in art, whether it was drawing, painting or photography. He attributes his talent to his late father who was a mechanic.

“My father was a sculptor, but he didn’t know that he was. Back then, being a creative wasn’t a normal thing, and it was encouraged that men go out and look for a ‘real job’ and that’s why he became a mechanic.

“He could make anything including knobkieries, statues and home-made pocketknives.”

Ndikhumbule went to Chris Hani High School in Khayelitsha, but at the time, he says, there weren’t many institutions that could help him explore his love of art.

In 1999, he matriculated and had no idea what he wanted to do afterwards because, he says, he wasn’t very strong academically.

“I started looking for jobs and did anything I could find including waitering. One day, I saw a poster at Woodstock train station about an art project and decided to check it out, and that is where my journey truly began.”

Ndikhumbule is mostly a self-taught artist, but it was during his studies at the Community Arts Project in Woodstock from 2000 to 2001 that he learnt to master his talent.

He was still living with his mother at the time, and he admits that although she always supported him, she never truly understood why he wanted to paint.

“There was a stigma around what I wanted to do with my life. I remember a neighbour in Philippi was walking past, and I was painting outside.

“He shouted for me to quit wasting time with this painting nonsense and get a real job. I heard stuff like that quite a lot, but I never really let it get me down. I was always determined to succeed and believed in my ability,” he says with a smile.

He exhibits at the Barnard Gallery, in Newlands, and has also taken part in various exhibitions both locally and abroad and is the recipient of a several international residency fellowship awards, including a Thami-Mnyele residency in Amsterdam.

In 2012, according to his bio on the Barnard Gallery’s website, he was selected to represent South Africa at the Dakar Biennale where he won the Foundation Blachere Award and subsequently completed a residency fellowship at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany.

In 2014, his work was included in The People Shall Share in the Country’s Wealth at the Centre for African Studies at UCT. The exhibition was curated by Meghna Singh to coincide with the screening of the film, Miners Shot Down, a documentary by Rahad Desai dealing with the 2012 Marikana Massacre.

He was the Barnard Gallery’s featured artist at the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London in 2017. The gallery has also presented his work at Cape Town Art Fair, Joburg Art Fair and at AKAA (Also Known As Africa) in Paris.

Ndikhumbule’s work features in several prestigious local collections, including the Iziko South African National Gallery.

He says he hopes to create ideas that will stand the test of time because, he says, art doesn’t just begin and end in a studio, gallery or theatre.

“There are some paintings I regret selling because I know people just lock them up in their homes somewhere, and they are never seen again and that’s where the story of that painting ends. It’s really sad when I think about it.

“This is why I want to create something big and something that will be sustainable. I want to create a series of creative spaces all over Cape Town and not just for painters like me. I’d like to open graphic studios, musical studios, dance theatres and many more.”