Home PodcastMaryam Mkwanda World-renowned SAn artist Bongi Bengu

World-renowned SAn artist Bongi Bengu

by Zahid Jadwat

Joburg-based artist Bongi Bengu continues to make her mark on the international art stage. Some of her work has been featured locally and abroad; as far as the Netherlands and Australia.

Maryam Mkwanda caught up with Bengu to hear her story on Salaamedia. Her work has often been described as social commentary, although she would rather be called an alchemist, she said.

“I’m an artist, but I’d much rather call myself an alchemist or a transformer because I transform discarded and seemingly useless materials into art,” she said.

The postwar and contemporary artist has produced award-winning pieces which have fetched up to R30 000 or thereabouts. Bongi Bengu’s work has been displayed in Johannesburg, Cape Town, London, Chicago, Amsterdam, Sydney and several other locations.

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Where it all started for Bongi Bengu

There’s no doubt for Bongi Bengu that she was born to do art. “I knew that I came here for this specific purpose even before I was born,” she said.

Bengu attended Waterford Kamhlaba United World College in Mbabane, eSwatini, which was established in 1963 as the first multiracial school in Southern Africa. That’s when she realised art was her métier.

“It was during my last two years of high school and I was fortunate enough to interview some very prominent artists like William Cantridge [and] Helen Sibidi. I got a distinction for that research project and that’s when I knew that this was my calling,” she said.


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Since her initial work, Bongi Bengu’s art has transformed. She explains this as a reflection of her own transformation from those early days to the present.

Her recent output utilises leaves and seeks to re- interpret the meaning of life and its organisms.

“I’ve been using very different mediums – from charcoal and pastel to acrylics and oils and leaves. My work has been transforming quite a lot over the years because as I transform as a person, my work also transforms,” said Bengu.

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