Through his provocative and engaging work, Johannesburg-based artist Mzoxolo Mayongo, is forging a new vision for the masculine identity. During a time where the idea of femininity, masculinity and sexual orientation is in flux and these notions are being dissected and scrutinised from varying perspectives, Mayongo’s work is a personal response to his own unforgiving insecurities as a man living in South Africa today.
The Divine Figure, SANGO.
The character portrayed in the work is called SANGO, referred to as ‘they’. SANGO in Nguni language (of Xhosa/ Zulu) means, door in literal translation, or entry point in figurative. SANGO inhibits and is a holistic representation of both the feminine and the masculine, hence “THEY” pronoun. They are a “DIVINE” spiritual figure functioning as an artistic instrument in exploring and interrogating the human form and human condition. In this exposition of SANGO, the world that they live in above ours, although intertwines with us through this work, uses the body (artist’s physical form) to expose and express meaning of other universal truths… reconciling, liberating and healing… becoming the doorway and entry point for humanity to view and find alternative ways into boundless existence. This ultimately is all commentary on the public discourse and changes taking place in the contemporary landscape of gender/sexual identities as much as exploration of the vulnerability of masculine form.
As an artist, I work with conceptual ideas which seek to explore, interrogate and reexamines the state of the human conditions, which relates to contemporary landscape and public discourses. Only through Sango, the DIVINE figure I am able to go through this process without preconceived ideas or judgement, stepping outside of my own human experience.
In using process in research of histories, traumas, fragmentation, representation and reformation my work is a mix – multimedia of photography, sculptor, installation and performance art. My work forms part of a significant tool and offers a unique voice in dealing with themes of toxic masculinity, male vulnerability and traumas, sexual identities and gender politics, violence, and prejudices inflicted by man to self, women, and children, and society in general. Of which individual man and humanity of grappling and dealing with this currently. More so, my work embodies the use of the art expression and practice that offers dialogue and a dynamic point of view in an unrelenting, unassuming and unthreading manner to the viewer/audience who engages with the work. It leaves the viewer/ audience with a seed of dialogue way after direct contact, which fosters an internal motion of transformation to take place. At least this is what I hope.
Hear him talk about this body of work himself:
Mzoxolo on art and spirituality what makes his form of art spiritual
As weird as this may sound, for me I believe being an artist and the art I create is a divine calling. In the process in creating a body of artwork and before, a lot of prayer and meditation takes place as a form of having a conversation with the higher self, the Divine Creator/ God. Hence then I am particular in the title of “Conceptual Artist” as oppose to a mere visual artist. This speaks of the concept of the Divine birthing the conceptual ideas into material artwork through me. I am just a vessel of that process as long I stay true and honest to the process and its truth. So to my life and the way I live life, in general, is centred in my spirituality. After all, we are all spiritual beings having a human experience as I see it.
The body of art entitled ‘“Ubukho be Ndoda” Demystifying the Phallus of Man’ is part of a larger movement Mayongo advocates for. As an activist his practise extends into social-justice programs and includes a platform called TalkingMEN. The initiative creates a space that facilitates discussion surrounding what it means to be a “man” in current day South Africa.