Now, for his first solo exhibition, Ingoma Yothando, Mbhele’s brightly coloured collage works speak to transformation within South Africa's youth. His profound exploration of this notion by using fabric offcuts resonates with Mbhele's interpretation of daily existence. "Fabric covers our bodies while boosting our confidence and providing a canvas for each day," he explains.
Having walked through and finally witnessed the solo exhibition we’ve all been waiting for, it’s evident that Mbhele has spent hundreds of hours creating his works for Ingoma Yothando. Walking past the colourful collages puts into perspective the magnitude of his subject matter.
The juxtaposition of cultural heritage, spirituality and folklore with contemporary stories of South Africa’s current state is perfectly balanced with his collage-style scatter of vibrant colours. Each one blended beautifully, and with surprising precision that showcases the artist's ingenious talent.
There is, automatically, a textile feel to his Ingoma Yothando, the woven borders of each canvas make the viewer feel as if they’ve stepped into an exhibition of exquisite tapestries and yet, upon closer inspection, Mbhele has successfully mimicked what Weiwei Wang at the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile calls "soft art".
His creative vision is deeply rooted in the traditional dances passed down from generation to generation and their accompanying music. It’s fitting then, that ‘Ingoma Yothando’ translated from isiZulu means ‘Song of Love’, which serves as the thematic cornerstone of his work.
In Ingoma Yothando, Mbhele’s concern is with the preservation of these traditions in an era where technology and social media threaten to overpower the fabric of society and the rituals that have provided guidance.
"The intricate use of [fabric] offcuts to form a rather disjointed and unsettling tapestry of colliding images results in a poignant statement about contemporary society and its preference for instant gratification, slavish dedication to social media and disregard of traditional values and rituals," says Cate Terblanche, art curator for Sasol.
Mbhele's solo exhibition is open alongside the Sasol New Signatures 2023 exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum. We strongly recommend you take the time to visit. Always incredibly worthwhile.