Nandipha Mntambo Prints
Nandipha Mntambo is tall, impossibly stylish and has more energy than most hurricanes. Inviting her to work on some prints was a risk as her most of her work is either sculptural or photographic. We need not have worried, her time in the studio was very productive, even if the printers were run off their feet. “Lithography is a whole new thing, I just enjoyed playing, experimenting and not being too precious. Bringing in colour adds a new dimension” (Nandipha Mntambo, 2013)
Much of Mntambo’s work deals with cattle, whether molding cow hide around a mold (originally made from her body), using cow hide as a tunic, stitching cow hair through paper, re-enacting bull fights (with a cow hide cape), transforming herself into a bull. Mntambo references cattle through African, European and Asian beliefs and traditions, using her body as the anchoring point. These prints do and don’t move away from cattle, she explains: “ the cattle work is always caught up in my body. Body is central, with these prints there is a shift away from the material but the core still remains. We all have a body but each is perceived differently, although bodies are essentially the same thing. The whole point for me is that we are all the same. It is more about finding a core, a core of sameness. Regardless of distances, time and geography we all have things that make us so similar.”
The title of the series “Hinterlands of Devotion” provides a key to understanding the work. The forms in the prints are inspired by a close up and intimate focus on body parts that then evolves into a sense of large scale figures. The layering of the inks helped the idea of depth, the layers reflecting the physical structure of skin. Mntambo investigates three dimensionality within a flat plane. The titles evokes a sense of geography, memory and forgotten under developed space. The colonial concept of “on the border of nowhere”, intrigues Mntambo. Ports were placed at the entrance to nowhere, for received goods from far away, unknown places. These correlate with the contours of the body, our borders of physical space. What lies below and beneath the skin? We are all part of our bodies and yet do not really know or understand them. And yet there is a level of devotion; to the craft, the process of doing, devotion to health, devotion to feeling and we all make choices and are committed to them.
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