Ndlela driven by love of art and community pride

By Thembelani Mkhize

Art is something I consider a language, a complex visual communication method that could probably tell a Chinese citizen how a Zulu person is feeling.

Whenever I sit down to draw a picture, I already see in my head what it could be. Now the challenge is making my hands believe what my head is thinking.

After two years of practise, the task has become like second nature and I can pretty much draw anything I see or want to see. All this was self-taught and I realise how useful the skill has become after some applied consistency.

Charcoal creations

Muzi Ndlela has been an artist for 21 years and his charcoal creations are appreciated throughout the Midlands. With his experience and success, Muzi has always wanted to give back to the community by encouraging art as a school subject and respected career path.

Having always been passionate about art, from pencil to paint, his works have depicted daily life in Mpophomeni, and have a certain way of expressing emotion, not only through the movement in the picture, but in the colour and contrast.

Muzi started drawing in 1998 when he attended art classes at Pietermaritzburg’s Tatham Art Gallery, taught by Mduduzi Xakaza.

His charcoal drawings are his pride and joy, and with which he has built his reputation. His works have been sold at venues along the Midlands Meander for a number of years now and some of his pieces are on sale at the Mandela Capture Site shop.

Picture, top: Muzi Ndlela at Mpophomeni’s new Arts Centre. Above, a work by the artist, who is well-known for his charcoal drawings.

Muzi has also won various awards – the Nivea Art Award in 2008, the mayor of Howick honoured him with an award for his talents and he also received a Rita Strong scholarship which gave him a chance to study fine art at UKZN in 2017.

Growing up in Mpophomeni, Muzi took note from an early age that people didn’t take his craft seriously, but that did not deter him.

Instead, he persisted, practised his art and perfected his work, while finding ways to make it pay. He wanted to share his knowledge with Mpophomeni’s youth and encourage them to pursue a career in art.

Art centre

“I’ve always wanted to introduce art in our local schools, but it hasn’t been easy to get people in the community to grasp art as a subject,” says Muzi.

Recently, he partnered with the Trinity Lutheran Church from Ventura, California, to open an art centre in Mpophomeni at the Montrose House complex (known as BT to locals).

He met members of the group when they visited the township last year for an event dedicated to former president Nelson Mandela.

Walls that divide and heal

During the week-long festivities, Muzi approached the Trinity group with the idea of renovating a vandalised building at the Montrose complex and turning it into an art centre. They loved the idea and, less than a year later, Muzi launched the centre in June.

He has worked with a group of young, talented individuals, such as Bongeka Cebekhulu (performing arts), Ayanda Mkhize (fashion design), Siyabonga Ngubane (fine art student) and Nhlakanipho Sthole (Thespian and PR student), to name a few, who have had the chance to express their creativity because of the new centre.

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Thanks to people like Muzi, art is beginning to take root in our loxion economy.

This is inspiring youngsters like Kwanele, a self-taught craftsman who carves beautiful garden ornaments and bird feeders. He sells his creations around the township and in Howick. This is an example of how someone has turned their art into a job and how, with enough support, it has the potential to become a career.

As Picasso once said, “Everything you can imagine can be real”. – mkhize.thembelani@gmail.com

For more information about the centre call Muzi on 083 876 6025 or Bongeka on 060 475 3172.