Artists We Love: Themba Mbuyisa

WORDS Celeste Jacobs PHOTOS Themba Mbuyisa

Meet Themba Mbuyisa: a visual artist based in Johannesburg who uses photography, in particular, to rekindle notions of nostalgia infused with intimacy.

If you’re a Netflix viewer and you took note of the striking still photographs used to promote locally produced series Blood & Water, Themba Mbuyisa’s image-making skills are already on your radar. The young photographer was given the creative licence to shoot the promotional images in his own style – and he did so with considerable panache.

“I started photography as a student, from 2013, and professionally from 2016,” says Themba. “But I think my professional career started in 2017, when I became a full-time independent artist using photography.” It also helped that he was awarded the GoetheOnMain project fund for an exhibition in 2016, and soon thereafter received the 2016 ELLE Style Reporter award that kick-started his commercial career.

While Themba was an academically strong student, he says it was only when he was doing his first year of a BSc in computer sciences that he got exposed to art through galleries, exhibitions and books – and he never looked back. “Three years later I found myself enrolled in a photography course, and the world responded,” he says. After being selected for his first artist’s residency programme in Brazil in 2014, Themba has been growing and travelling as an artist.

Today, he’s looking forward to a number of international projects – and there are other art forms to keep exploring too. “I’ve recently started trying to complete all of the sketches I never finished, some of which are from when I was in my early teens,” he says. “It’s been interesting to revisit my childhood passions – I didn’t know they could be linked to where I am now.”

Keep your eye on this sharp shooter, who’s already achieved so much – we think this is just the beginning of a brilliant career.

Check out more local artists here.