Odd Artist of The Month: Nontokozo Dladla

Pleasure and Ontology: Nontokozo Dladla

I am a self-taught abstract artist who grew up in Tembisa, a township in the east of Johannesburg where abstract art is a foreign concept to many, or rather, is referred to by many as ‘amakoporosh’ (loosely translated to crap). After completing high school in 2013, I went on to further my studies at the University of the Witwatersrand where I pursued a BSc honours degree in Microbiology and Biotechnology. My loves are two in life, science and art. This is where I feel most alive, either with a pipette on my hand or a paintbrush.

With zero formal art background and having grown in an environment where abstract art was/is non-existent, my first abstract piece only came to life during my first year of varsity. This was after I realized that sketching/drawing did not offer me the kind of freedom I needed. What I needed was a way to express myself freely, without any constraints of how an ideal face is supposed to look like or what shade of blue the sky must be in. Abstract art afforded me this, the freedom to paint away my thoughts without any restrictions. The kind of freedom that allows both the artist and the viewer to interpret any piece in whatever way it speaks to them. I’m reminded here of Vincent Van Gogh who teaches us to share the world not as it is but as we see it.

For most of my varsity years, art was one of those “hobbies” I seldomly visited. It wasn’t until April 2020 that I started painting frequently. With the whole world on standstill, I had too much time on my hands and only one thing could keep me sane; painting. As was with my first piece, my choice of media is acrylic on canvas. However, I’ve also worked with some inks, water paint and soft pastels.

Living in fear. ​A piece that speaks of every women’s fear in South Africa currently. We fear for our lives, the lives that we put in danger on a daily by simply ‘living’. We fear bringing daughters to this cruel world.

My work is inspired by anything and everything around me. This is evident in my diverse scope of work which includes just about anything. Some of my pieces are meant to raise awareness, bring about questions, comfort those in need, while some are simply meant to colour the world beautiful.

Abstract art for me is a medium to ethereal spaces, perhaps spaces of the future, but not in the Afro-futurism sense. Spaces that do not resemble the ones we currently inhabit. However I don’t think abstract art, or any art at that, is some kind of a map… or grammar to these spaces, I think it only offers us an ephemeral, only a glimpse into these spaces. However, it is our duty as artists to imagine the future, however improbable.

Rains of hope. ​With every tear, blood and raindrop, the hearts of the troubled grow hopeful for a better tomorrow. ‘It’s darkest before dawn’ we tell ourselves.
My world. ​A beautiful mess.
Black is power. ​A piece that serves to remind black people of their power and capabilities. In a world where a darker shade of a skin tone is associated with inferiority and a lighter one with superiority, it is of utmost importance to remind our brothers and sisters that they too are just as powerful and capable. We are powerful and we matter. After Basquiat. This piece is a demand for ontology.

For me, art is one of the most beautiful languages there is. A language that can heal, comfort, entertain, bring about curiosity and questions, and make the world a little bit visually naïve, as Dominique De Menil ​prompts us “​​we are cluttered with images, and only abstract art can bring us to the threshold of the divine.” This​ is my pleasure and it is for this reason that art should be shared. This is an act of radical love and friendship. I think Virginia Woolf put it better: “.. pleasure has no relish unless we share it.”

My works can be viewed and purchased from the following social media platforms:

Instagram : @_nontyy_ link

Twitter : @npdladla21