Intraparadox: A Correspondence with Nancy Ndaba on behalf of Abigail Mabeba and Linah Mokoena


IN this edition of Intraparadox I speak to Nancy Ndaba against the backdrop of the group exhibition that her group, Free Breed, hosted at the South African State Theatre from 16 to 19 June 2021 as part of the State Theatre’s Youth Expression Festival 2021.

14 June 2021

Mmutle Arthur Kgokong: Good day Mme Nokuthula Ndaba.

Thank you for taking the time to correspond with me regarding your upcoming exhibition, Thought, which will be on show at the South African State Theatre from tomorrow, 15 June until 19 June

Nokuthula Nancy Ndaba: Good day Mr. Mmutle.  

Thank you for your time, interest and your effort. I highly appreciate it and I thank you.

Mmutle Arthur Kgokong: You are welcome.

This is a three women show that will feature your work and that of Abigail Mabeba and Linah Mokoena. Please tell me how did the concept, the idea, of the exhibition come about?

Nokuthula Nancy Ndaba: The exhibition that we are going to set up at the State Theatre on 16 till 19 June 2021 is part of the Youth festival held at there annually.

We all studied at Tshwane University of Technology Fine and Applied Arts. But after school we separated and met each other again after a long time at an art workshop hosted here in Pretoria. So that’s when we thought of forming a group and collaborate as women.

We want to embrace each other as women and break the mentality that the society has about women. People still think that women cannot work together successfully, they think we cannot build each other as women because we are always looking down on each other and we become jealous. The society think that if one woman becomes successful the other woman will feel intimidated.

So we want to erase that by first building ourselves as women under our group Thought. We also believe that everything was made through thought, through thinking. For example when we make art, what we have is an idea in mind, we then plan how we going to use this idea to create an artwork and then we create the actual piece of art.

So everything that exists in the universe was once a thought, this is where our concept came about. We create through thinking and success goes with planning.

Mmutle AK: What an interesting observation on the origins and mechanics of creativity. You and your fellow artists have a shared history in your formative years as art students, I find it remarkable that you were able to reconnect after some years apart. Why did you choose the South African State Theatre as your venue? What was the motivation?

Nokuthula NN: The South African State Theatre is one of the best pioneer spaces where we could get the spotlight to showcase our work. And it is accessible for all of us since it is in Pretoria. As Pretoria based artists, it is an ideal space for us. 

It is a great platform to showcase our work, explore and also challenge ourselves by testing our confidence in sharing our ideas through art, where we send our messages to the society, and let our work speak to the people on our behalf and it also allows people to engage and respond to it.

By having exhibitions at the South African State Theatre we are giving people a chance to view and experience our work. It is also an opportunity to have public feedback that can enlighten us. Not all people will like our work; some will like it and some will criticize it, so we are challenging ourselves by exposing our work to the world. Since many people visit the State Theatre, even the people from abroad will be able to view our work there as well as online. So this is how we will grow as artists, by facing our challenges and learning from them.

MAK: It is quite clear from your response that you hold the South African State Theatre in high regard. I am glad that they have provided the space for this exhibition. There are few spaces in Tshwane where artists can hold exhibitions. As a result contemporary art in Tshwane has no room to ventilate, to grow. Let us talk about the artworks on show.

Between the three of you, how many artworks did you prepare for this exhibition and how many artworks will go on show in total?

NNN: I have 42 artworks, Linah Mokoena 30 artworks and Abigail Mabeba has about 45 artworks and we plan to exhibit all the works.

MAK: Interesting, these are high numbers per artists. I hope that the theatre has provided a space large enough to accommodate the body of work you might eventually put up, ratio-wise so to speak. What mediums were used to produce the works?

NNN: We have ceramics, glass work, beads, paintings, drawings, print and sculpture; mostly mixed media. We have worked with clay, glass, acrylic paint, oil paint, gouache, pencil coloured pencil, charcoal, ballpoint, fine liner, ink, oil pastel, cloth, canvas, paper, and cement.

MAK: So it is a multidisciplinary exhibition. This ought to be interesting considering the broad spectrum of mediums, as you indicate, that have been used to produce the work earmarked for the show. Let us talk a little bit about the Themes or Concepts.

What is the predominant theme or subject matter that you may say carry the title of the exhibition? Give examples of artworks that carry the tone and the message of this Exhibition. What are the reasons behind your observation?

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15 June 2021

NNN: Our group’s name is Free Breed, it was inspired by the Rainbow Nation, the young generation, expression, freedom, speech and creativity.

We see ourselves as Free Beings because we are young and we are able to create work that can comment on the issues that are happening in this world. And through our art we can send the message to the world. Nothing is stopping us from expressing our ideas, feelings and opinions through our work.

Since we were given a chance to participate at the South African State Theatre Youth Festival, we thought of Free Breed as a great title for our concept ‘Thought’. Our work complements both our group name and the title of our exhibition.

As individuals we have different views, opinions, believes and so on, and in our group we are all equal and we take all our opinions serious. We work together as a team in order to succeed in what we’re doing. So every individual in our group has an opportunity to express themselves freely through their art.

Examples of some of the work that are linked to our title are:

1. Wrapped Around.

2. This is my Version 

3. Reprint My Hero

Wrapped Around by Abigail Mabeba, is a sculpture made out of cement. This sculpture depicts a human face with a face mask on. The artwork is about what is currently going on in our country. It is about how we feel right now. We feel trapped by COVID-19 pandemic, it is now part of our lives.

Figure 1. Abigail Mabeba. Wrapped Around (2021)

The pandemic is what we think about in our daily lives. When we leave our houses for work, school or shopping we feel unsafe and we afraid of being infected by this sickness that we don’t even understand.

The work ‘This is my Version’ by Linah Mokoena, is an acrylic painting on canvas. It depicts her vision on how she sees the world. She sees the world in her own way, she doesn’t use other people’s eye view or opinion to look at the world. So whatever choices she makes in life benefits her, her thoughts are hers and people shouldn’t try to jeopardise them. People should view the world from their own perspective.

Figure 2. Linah Mokoena. This is my Version (2021)

Reprint My Hero, one of my own pieces, is a an acrylic painting on paper. It was inspired by the famous picture of Hector Pieterson. I used Spiderman as a symbol of a hero that is trying to protect or save the world; education, learners and schools in South Africa. The hero is holding a young boy whose face we can’t see but we can make-out the flag of our country. This artwork’s theme is the history of the youth in South Africa and the idea here is to remind people where we come from and how, through the understanding of our history, we can build our future.

Figure 3. Nancy Ndaba. Reprint My Hero (2021). Acrylic on paper.

The title of this artwork is simply saying that we must go back to our history, we must know and remember our history and use this history to shape our future. We are where we are today because of what happened in the past so we mustn’t forget our history and we must also be grateful to those who fought for us, we are where we are today because of them.

MAK: What an interesting sweep of a wide range of preoccupations that concerns your exhibition. I like the fact that the three of you have allowed each space for self-expression without barriers or conformity.

What would you say you and the other artists would love the public to take away with after seeing the exhibition?

NNN: Our exhibition contains issues that are happening around us. We want people to be vigilant of what is happening around them and do something about it. People must know their history and use it to shape their future. We mustn’t forget who we are and where we come from so that we can see where we are going and shape the future.

Free Breed: Linah Mokoena, Nancy Ndaba and Abigail Mabeba

Our artworks captures what we experience in our daily lives and we use these artworks to send the message to the people. As human beings we have different views, thoughts, opinions, beliefs. Our exhibition is a combination of these different thoughts.

Our works speaks about the South African history more especially under education, June 16 or youth day, Covid-19, education in South Africa, freedom of expression, the concept of love, unity, creativity and vision.

We understand that we are different as individuals but we want to promote the idea of understanding the differences that we have and of working together to build each other by learning from one another.

When you look at our artworks you’ll experience almost everything that we come across in our everyday lives. This is the purpose of our exhibition. We want people to engage and relate with our work, they must not only see our work as artworks. It is our hope that in turn these artworks will speak to them, bring change, comfort and understanding into their lives.

As a group of women, we want to promote the idea of women power. We believe that we can work together as women to build each other and grow. And as young as we are we want to encourage up-coming artists to learn about team work and to know that it is possible to achieve the goals that one set-out for themselves. What people should do is to put more effort in whatever they are doing and strive for success.

MAK: The attitude that you and your colleagues have towards this exhibition and outlook on life is inspiring. Thank you for sharing this moment with me on this platform. I am sure other artists out there will be inspired to produce work that is true to what they want to say to the world.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for making the time and space for us to talk about your group exhibition on behalf of Mme Abigail Mabeba and Mme Linah Mokoena.    

17 June 2021

NNN: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to present ourselves. We really appreciate your interest in our exhibition and the effort that you took in interviewing us. It is really an honour to have people like you who help artists to grow and be recognised. We really hope we will go far with our work and also bring change to the world and the art industry. Thank you Mr Mmutle.

18 June 2021

MAK: You are welcome, I remain humbled and inspired by the efforts of our artists in our city despite the challenges the creative industry face here, wherein unlike in some of our other cities in our country, there exists an array of opportunities for artist to flex themselves, develop and contribute to our visual art heritage. I thank all of you for making art. Ke a leboga.


19 June

© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong, 2021

List of figures

Figure. 1: Abigail Mabeba. Wrapped Around (2021). Cement. Dimensions not supplied.

Figure. 2: Linah Mokoena. This is my Version (2021). Acrylic on canvas. Dimensions not supplied

Figure 3. Nancy Ndaba. Reprint My Hero (2021). Acrylic on paper.

To reference this text & audio documentation please cite:

Kgokong, M.A. 2021. Intraparadox, A Correspondence with Nancy Ndaba on behalf of Abigail Mabeba and Linah Mokoena. Thought.

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