Arts & Crafts

Art for Africa

Art for Africa

Well-known local artist Tshidzo Mangena’s art offers the better of two different worlds. Get it visitsYonaka Art Studio to find out exactly what this means.

Tshidzo’s wife, Nantu, explains that he refuses to be put in a box, and upon viewing his art at their gallery situated at the Graskop Gorge Lift Company, her words fall into place. He creates traditional as well as contemporary paintings and his varied artworks feature an emotional Africa and her many faces.
Most artists have a specific style which runs like a golden thread through their body of work, but this is not so with Tshidzo. One painting features the face of a beautiful African woman in traditional style and colour, while the next offers a huge, more abstract, vibrant view of an African child staring directly at the artist. In these modern works Africa meets traditional impressionism and the bold brushstrokes are strikingly colourful and playful.

Despite these contradictions, his works do have one thing in common: a visible love of Africa and her people, especially women and children. It is precisely these two groups who seem to be both the heart of the continent as well as the most vulnerable, and this is apparent in his work.

Tshidzo was born in Lydenburg and grew up in Hazyview. After finishing school, he was set on completing a degree in graphic design, but his parents could not afford to send him to university. He realised that he needed to make his mark in the world and exploited his lifelong love of art. “I started painting on bags and T-shirts and sold these pieces to friends and community members,” he explains.
“One day I popped into the Frame Gallery in Mbombela and on the spur of the moment asked owner Mario Bruno’s opinion on an artwork I had with me. I was pleasantly surprised by his reaction.” Mario was hugely impressed and shortly thereafter Tshidzo sold his first painting. The rest is history. He moved to Johannesburg where he met Nantu and for the past two years she has been marketing his art on a full-time basis. She is also curator and marketer at Yonaka.

The dynamic pair owned and managed several art galleries and exhibitions in Gauteng and have built up a good standing relationship with some of the country’s top artists.
In 2017 they were both ready to move back to the Lowveld. They settled in Tshidzo’s hometown, Hazyview, where they live with and homeschool their three children, Phendani, Jehu and Thendo. When the opportunity arose, they opened Yonaka
Art Studio.

Although Tshidzo mainly paints on commission these days, some of his sought-after works are available at the gallery. According to him, he exerts the booming Lowveld tourism trade to tell a story about life in and around the local villages. The Graskop Gorge Lift is the newest tourism hotspot in the neighbourhood and the ideal place to expose the numerous visiting South Africans as well as international tourists to the many facets of African art.

Yonaka Art is a beautiful, eclectic gallery that showcases both local as well as noted internationally acclaimed South African artists. Those exhibiting include, among others, well-known locals Cheryl van Dyk from Pilgrim’s Rest and Harem from Barberton. The works of Roema Photography, a Graskop-based husband-and-wife team are also available.

It is worth mentioning that commended artist Solomon Omogboye’s contemporary impressionistic art is on display at Yonaka. He was born in Lagos, Nigeria but settled in Johannesburg in 2014, and his own and Tshidzo’s works are exhibited in complementing harmony. Conté Magazine described Solomon’s body of work as “a combined knowledge and deep affection for youth inspired through teaching experience, combined with a passion for colour which has culminated into a series of figures and portraits that express his innate sensibility for capturing the human spirit. For Omogboye painting is a practice of focusing intentions from moment to moment. In each piece, he captures what so many of us overlook, miss or forget every day – the beauty in every existence.”

Other out-of-town artists include Lieze Meyer and Guilia from KwaZulu-Natal.
The work of Paul Munro, formerly from Graskop, is also shown at the gallery.
A visit to Yonaka Art Studio is certainly worth the trouble and satisfaction is guaranteed. There is, after all, an artwork for every taste and a fat purse is certainly not a requirement.

Nantu can be contacted on 082-374-0740 or at The Mangenas also invite art lovers to visit Yonaka Art Studio at the Graskop Gorge Lift Company daily between 8:30am and 5pm.

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