• ‘A Year in the Life of an Artist’: in conversation with EAS community member Nathi Khumalo | Johannesburg, South Africa

     It has been a productive year for South African artist Nathi Khumalo, actively engaged in artists collectives, art incubators, residencies, exhibitions, as well as curating, including co-curating a show of South African artists in New York. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing the news!

    "Iphakathi: Ripple Effect", AfroLuso Experimental Residency, Modzi Arts, Lusaka, Zambia, 2019. Photo by Nathi Khumalo

    How has your work evolved in the last year?  What new influences,  interests or themes are you exploring?  

    Yes, my work has certainly changed, as I'm doing a project based on identity and how fluid it is, rather than a solid form. Through the Modzi Arts Experimental Residency , that I was invited to attend in Lusaka, Zambia, I created a project called "Iphakathi Ripple Effect", a continuation from the 2018 "Iphakathi" ("in between" in Zulu). This one was influenced by the recent xenophobic attacks that occurred in South Africa in September 2019.  To the multiple questions that the locals were expecting me to have answers, like "Why is this happening? How can this happen?", the only way I could respond to address the issues that came up was through photography.

    "Iphakathi" series on our identities that we construct through clothes and the meanings we attach to them. Talent Unlocked Mentorship at Turbine Art Fair, 2018. Photo by Nathi Khumalo.

    Tell us about any exhibits you have recently been involved in.

    My work was showcased in a recent international group show Building Bridges Yangon, promoted by Emergent Art Space, which took place  in July 2019 at the Old  Tourist Burma Building in Yangon, Myanmar.

    During August and September '19, I was in a residency with three other visual artists in Lusaka, Zambia, and the outcome was showcased at the Modzi Gallery.

    Recently I was invited to a local festival in Soweto--Makhelwane Fest, where I showed the work Ripple Effect for the first time in South Africa since returning from Zambia.

    Off Market / Off to Market opening - Photo Incubator Edition 4, BLD Collective at Market Photo Workshop, March 2019.

    I worked on different projects for the BLD [Between Life and Death] Collective and the Market Photo Workshop (MPW), including a family archive which was part of the photography incubator -- Edition Four that launched on 30 March 2019.

    Between Life and Death Collective (BLD) is an organization of photographers, multi-media and post-production artists. Our vision is to shape critical thinking, create our own narratives by employing photography as an educational tool.


    Off Market / Off to Market opening - Photo Incubator Edition 4, BLD Collective at Market Photo Workshop, 1989 Gallery, March 2019.   Left: Sanele Moya (BLD Collective), Leboganag Thlako, Nathi Khumalo (BLD Collective), Nocebo Bucibo, Tsepo Gumbi, Bekie Ntini (Incubator Coordinator).   Right:  Discussion on The Archive: Kabelo Malasti and Legketho Makola in the audience.  Photos by Thando Ngidi.


    "Transitions: South Africa", group exhibition by Market Photo Workshop alumni at the Bronx Documentary Center, New York, United States of America. Installation photo by Cebisile Mobnani.

    I understand that you co-curated a show in New York City this year.  Tell us about the show, how you got involved and what the experience was like.

    Yes, I did co-curate a photography group exhibition with Khona Dlamini (KD), Lekgetho Makola (LM), Michael Kamber and Cynthia Rivera. I was approached by LM, head of the Market Photo Workshop, and KD, Manager of Public Programming, about a show that the school was invited to bring to the Bronx Documentary Center. The show was the result of a collaboration between a team from the Bronx Documentary Center and Market PhotoWorkshop. My role was to bring about a concept and selecting the artists and artworks to present to both institutions.

    "Transition: South Africa", group exhibition by Market Photo Workshop alumni at the Bronx Documentary Center in New York, U.S.. Installation photo by Cebisile Mobnani.

    The title of the exhibition was Transitions: South Africa. I must say that putting together this exhibition was really challenging, since time and space were a huge factor. But we managed to pull together something special, that also celebrated thirty years since Market Photo Workshop was founded.

    Fstop Club SA, Photo Incubator Edition Three. Kids from Fundujabulilie from the University of Johannesburg, Soweto and Buyaphi University. Students creating their own Zines during the opening, October 2019. Photo by Siphoshile Mkhwanazi.

    The exhibition in fact honored three decades of photography, multimedia training and public programming, to help bring photography to the forefront of social consciousness in South Africa and around the world. Photography was introduced to Africa via the colonial gaze, but Market Photo Workshop  has helped shift the dynamic to new stories that challenge former degrading and racist perspectives.

    The feedback was great and I learned a lot during this process. Going to New York was certainly like a dream. The art scene was amazing. The highlights were definitely the Bronx Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. The work I saw there was incredible.

    This is the second exhibition that I curated. The first show I did was at the U-care Center in Park Station Johannesburg.  That too showed works by alumni of Market Photo Workshop. What was different was that this was not a gallery space, but a medical facility.

    Left: Fstop Club SA, Edition Two. Images on display, August 2019. Installation Photo by Ludwick Ramalira.      Right: "UKUDINGISWA" Zine for AfroLuso Experimental Residency. Photo by Nathi Khumalo, Freedom Statue in Lusaka, Zambia, August 2019.
    Fstop Club SA, Edition One opening. Co-Founders Sipho Gongxeka , Siphosihle Mkhwanzi and Nathi Khumalo with the logo, May 2019. Photo by Ludwick Ramalira.

    What are you learning from these recent experiences?  Is it shifting your thinking and influencing your work in new ways?  If so, how?

    My experience keeps shifting, as I am always, too, trying to find new methods in my processes. I am also working to create a new community of visual artist who are interested in showing their work in alternative formats, through the FStop Club SA, a company that I co-founded in late 2018 with Sipho Gongxeka and Siphosihle Mkhwanzi. We are interested in self-publishing photo-books and zine-making, as a new and innovative way to showcase our art works.

    What are the next steps for you? What new projects are you working on?

    This year I look forward to continuing the work I've done with the collective and Club respectively. I also want to grow my own projects and, hopefully, finally get a solo show that I can present to the public.



    Nathi Khumalo is a visual practitioner from Johannesburg, South Africa, His work varies from personal works that interrogate his home and the different relationships and spaces in his life, to social commentary on a variety of topics, including consumerism, and issues of representation. 
    He is a member of the collective “Between Life and Death”. In 2018 he co-founded FSTOP CLUB SA, a company focused on promoting self publishing ideas and innovative ways to display artworks, through Zine making and photobooks. 
    Khumalo’s work has also been exhibited in South Africa, Zambia, India and Myanmar.


    For more updates, you can follow Bhande_Nathi on Instagram, Facebook and Emergent Art Space.