Making art is a way of thinking and releasing
In the more mainstream consumption of history, I was wondering what's the alternative? What does it mean to spread out the story a little thinner, and wider? And say, maybe this person's contribution needed these other five people around them to make, whatever they did happen. - Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi
For me, it's an empowering thing for individuals to know that it's not just on you, you're part of a community, you're part of a movement, your contributions matter. So whether you're in the front or you're behind, in the shadows pushing something, your contribution matters. - Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi
In episode 8 of the Latitudes Podcast, host Refiloe Mpakanyane talks to the dynamic New York born, South Africa-based multi-media artist Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, who received the Tollman Award for the Visual Arts in 2019; the Phillippe Wamba Prize in African Studies in 2004. Nkosi has collaborated, exhibited and studied globally and is popularly known for her pastel-hued paintings of triumphant Black gymnasts as well as her series of portraits of influential Black figures.
In this conversation, Nkosi unpacks the genesis and process behind some of her pieces; she sheds light on her studio practice, as well as her emphatic belief that love can be a force for meaningful change. Nkosi explains how her vibrant heritage (South African father and Greek-American mother) and being born “in exile” have influenced much of the direction of her work. Be it synthesising the “disparate” elements of one’s identity; or looking critically at the seemingly benign conventions of our lives: Nkosi's art is deeply considered and grounded in thorough research that lays bare the workings and consequences of our shared imperial and colonial history, while also imagining an alternative and fascinating present.
Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi obtained her BA from Harvard University (2004) and her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York (2008). She divides her time between studio work, performance, and navigating the field of art as social practice. Her work investigates the lived consequences of imperial histories and the personal dimensions of political identities, collectivity, and futurity, among other concepts.
*A quick note that the poem alluded to in the conversation is called First Petition by Divya Victor
Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi in studio, photo by Nina Lieska, courtesy the artist and Stevenson
Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, Protocol, 2022, courtesy the artist and Stevenson
About the Latitudes Podcast
Hosted by dynamic broadcast journalist and penchant for the arts Refiloe Mpakanyane, The Latitudes Podcast, which is the only podcast dedicated to contemporary African art, is an immersive and engaging platform that builds a new layer of access to the contemporary visual arts from Africa.
Latitudes is now a pan-African platform with a global audience, and this podcast is an additional discoverability tool for global audiences to uncover African art and learn about the featured topics and speakers.
Season one of the Latitudes Podcast explores new ways of accessing and thinking about the contemporary visual arts from Africa, while building a robust archive of thought leadership.
About Refiloe Mpakanyane
Refiloe Mpakanyane is a broadcast journalist, with a penchant for the arts. Known for her love and support of local African literature, art and artists, Mpakanyane has an Honours Degree from the Wits School of Journalism and majored in International Relations, Media Studies and English Literature for her undergrad. Her firm grounding in the critical, analytical and creative thinking of the humanities discipline has underpinned her passion for broadcasting, leading her to delve into working not only behind the scenes in radio and television production, but in front of the camera and hosting her own radio shows as well.
About Latitudes Online
Latitudes Online is the world's leading online marketplace for art from Africa. Discover and buy artworks from over 1,700 artists and enjoy editorial from leading voices on the continent. When you buy from Latitudes Online you have peace of mind that your artwork will be safely delivered to you in perfect condition. Click here to start your collecting journey.
About iTOO Artinsure
iTOO is a collective of industry leading experts across a range of special risk insurance offerings. Art and collectables are a fast growing asset class around the world. Representing years of value that could diminish in a matter of seconds, it’s critical to take the time to insure with an expert who understands the length and breadth of the industry. Damage, an increasing rise in cultural crime and forgery can translate to serious loss in terms of your appreciating works and collectables.
Further Reading In Articles
African Artist Directory