Artists We Love: Simphiwe Ndzube

INTERVIEWED BY Debbie Loots IMAGES courtesy of Simphiwe Ndzube and WHATIFTHEWORLD


Multi-award winning artist Simphiwe Ndzube has just chalked himself up another prize, the prestigious Tollman Award for the Visual Arts.

Born in Jozi in 1990, Simphiwe grew up in Hofmeyr in the Eastern Cape before moving to Cape Town where he completed his BA Fine Art degree at Michaelis. In 2015, he won both the coveted Michaelis and Simon Gerson prizes and in 2013 he bagged the Cecil Skotnes award.

Hard at work at Greatmore Studios in Woodstock where he is in residence, Simphiwe has just opened his first solo show at WHATIFTHEWORLD gallery. We caught up with this rising young art star. 

You have a soft spot for fashion. Tell us more.

I’ve always been interested in fashion. In fact, in school I took Design as a subject up until grade 12, and part of our studies included designing garments with different themes. It was only in my third year at Michaelis that I revisited all these various forms of creativity I had fallen in love with as a teenager: fashion, dance and my interest in the human condition. Second-hand clothes happened to be the most accessible and easiest material to manipulate, perfect to play with while trying to make sense of everything.

What was a defining moment in your life?

When I got accepted to study art at Michaelis. UCT is one of those universities that are inaccessible to people living in townships on the outskirts of Cape Town. To have been the only UCT graduate from Masiphumelele township clearly says a lot.

You were recently part of a group show, Dear Europa… at WHATIFTHEWORLD. Tell us more about your current solo show.

Yes, Dear Europa… was a build up to my first solo show Becoming that opened on 19 October. In Becoming, I hope to present a versatile body of work mostly consisting of installations and sculptural paintings. It is a kind of continuation of some of the ideas I explored in my graduate show.

What matters to you?

In general, I’d say coexistence, healthy relationships and non-exploitative dealings. But what really matters is that my work has the ability to make people feel something, that there’s a kind of tension. To make work that takes one’s mind on a journey to a completely different world.

Can art change the world?

I don’t think so. The world is too big to be changed by an art object, but I think art, at least some art, has the ability to bring about awareness to our ignorance, but also alter our experience when engaging with it. It also has the ability to make us identify with, and share a sense of togetherness.

What was the highlight of your career so far?

I’d say the beautiful coincidence that took place at a carnival in 2009. I was invited to draw live portraits for some extra bucks to buy materials. Without knowing it, I drew the late artist Peter Clarke, only to be told by one of the young men who was part of a large crowd forming behind me, who he was. Since then, Peter became a friend, a mentor and advisor in my career and life.

Visit simphiwendzube.tumblr.com to view more of this talented young artist’s work.