EAS is pleased to feature this exceptional artist and educator whose work and mixed-media paintings aim to foster social change.
I am Mondli “The Artivist” Kunene, born in Soweto. I grew up with influence from Soweto and the Vaal triangle, which is where I am currently residing, Daleside, Randvaal near Meyerton in South Africa. My pathway to becoming an artist started at an early age, as I was influenced by my late uncle from my paternal side. From my maternal side, my mother and late grandmother were clothing designers. When I was in the eighth grade, I started painting daily, everything from cartoons to famous
musicians and actors.
My goals, beliefs, influences, themes and practices as an artist are entirely linked because, from an early age, I grew up listening to a lot of good music, reading encyclopedias, keeping abreast of current affairs locally and abroad, as well as researching about South African history that is not published or prescribed for high school textbooks. My aim is to focus on the exposure of the truth and the reasons why a lot of truths are hidden from the masses.
Because I studied to become an educator, I also influenced my former learners at the time to probe and search for the truth, instead of taking things at face value. Later on I would incorporate this teaching element into my process of creating Mondliart®, as my work is based on factual truths hidden, metaphors and symbolism. Now that I have grown, not only as individual but as an Artivist, I look up to three people, Kanye West, Dr. Dre and my late mentor Speelman Mahlangu, nephew of Dr. Esther Mahlangu¹.
Mondliart® is created using acrylic paint, Warthog tusks, ostrich and crocodile leather mostly. Those mediums are part of the Mondliart® signature look, but I also use oil paint. My process is unique in that I don't draw background sketches as a guideline of what the actual painting is supposed to look like in the end. I paint free hand from start to finish; however, my technique & style, which I refer to as #BrushStrokesFromTheFuture, involves me painting circles and lines. That is how I manipulate the eye of the viewer and the material I am using to make Mondliart® pieces look the way they look.
I am working on a new body of work as the demand for Mondliart® grows. I was supposed to be exhibiting at the Venice Biennial art exhibition but, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, I could not. I am also preparing for an overseas artist residency and locally, when I get an opportunity to collaborate, I am available.
Currently I am in the process of establishing the Mondliart®® Hub, which will be beneficial to artistically inclined youth. During my tenure as an educator, I saw that most of the so called “problematic learners” are the
ones that are highly creative.
The setup of the orthodox way of traditional education is not working for them as far as stimulation and creativity is concerned.
Mentoring came naturally, as I am an educator and my name in English translates to “the Sustainer”. With my students, I have been facilitating and mentoring them via social media. I also link them to opportunities like artists open calls, so that they can participate and grow. With the Mondliart® Hub, at least I will be able to accommodate and also employ other young qualified
creatives to assist me.
My mentees are from a range of cities in South Africa, including Pretoria, Vaal and Potchefstroom. They work in pencil, charcoal, and multimedia. From me they are learning not only how to refine their skill but also to treat themselves as brands. I am learning from them that South Africa has so much untapped potential as far talent is concerned.
My hopes for the future evolve around creating more potently original thought-provoking
Mondliart® pieces and developing a clientele from overseas, as I am currently building rapport for myself as an art brand overseas. Furthermore, I am hoping to establish the Mondliart® Hub and let it be self-sufficient. Lastly, for my mentees, I hope they grow in character and in their craft, and protect their own voices as a form of their expression, as I have helped them to find their own style that will distinguish them from their peers.