Nandipha Mntambo

Nandipha Mntambo


There are rare moments when artworks immediately captivate you and do not let you go anymore. Nandipha Mntambos cowhide- and -ear-sculptures at MOCAA Museum in Capetown left these deep impressions. Later, researching on the new Topic of
«Nothingness», we realized that her works represent one of the essences of this exhibition, playing between inside and outside, surface and content or reality and fake.
Nandipha Mntambo had first studied forensic pathology. Realizing that this was not her field of studies, she turned into art and through the guidance by a dream came back to the forensic subject from a totally different perspective.

During her studies she learnt the process of tanning the cowhides and started transforming this «raw» organic material by the careful use of chemicals. Using cowhides is a very archaic craft, known from early times of the history of mankind and nowadays accredited as part of a holistic and respectful treatment of the whole creature. The organic nature of her sculptures deals with the ephemeral way of the material itself, its smell, texture and the reminder of death, things that passed. Some you did know, others you never knew – the unknown Unknowns.

Never before has Mntambo worked on cowhides in a residency, she used to focus on drawing and painting, easier to practice at an abroad art-place. For WhiteSpaceBlackBox it was an honor to host this first
«cowhide-sculpture-residency», which brought her and us to certain limits still intensified through the pressure of the «Coronavirus». Finally, circumstances cut her residency from four to two and a half weeks and we realized that we only could reach our goals by trust.

Within this newly discovered «space of trust» four cowhide-sculptures emerged as heart of the «Nothingness» Topic 2020. Shadows of passed beings, spoors of life painted into the space, hollow shapes artistically eternalized after a first life as symbols of the picturesque Swiss landscape. All works focus on organic shapes and the human body, often carrying a mystic meaning within them. «Hidden Treasures», newly created shapes by Mntambo symbolize protection, cocooning, pregnancy and enclosed spaces. The female sculptures «Flight» and «Journey to Silence» resemble to Mntambo’s original body of work, where normally she pulls the wet cowhide over a mannequin-shape of her own body. Ladies standing for herself - nobody’s body or everybody’s body. Whereas in earlier works she shaped the cowhides very narrowly around her body, she now lets them flow more freely.

The artist wants us to step into the hollow shapes, to fill the «Nothingness» with our bodies and feel the unsaid expression of the new body as an important experience. Four light and playful aquarelle-paintings «Space – You and I» wonderfully complement the exhibition and bring to awareness the broad range of artistic skills of Nandipha Mntambo.

Mntambo at the time of her residency struggled with the typical questions of life between an internationally renowned artist career and a single-educating mother of a four-year-old daughter. We appreciate her power and courage to have taken the chance of this residency.

Nothingness creates the chance of trust – if we take it.

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