Pathology, Taxidermy and Art
This 35-year old South African artist is being represented by galleries across the globe. She’s become renowned for her provocative work with cow hides. We are captivated by her disruption of convention, her reinvention of gender roles and boundless creativity. Meet Nanipha Mntambo.
Art and Influence
She grew up in apartheid South Africa and was the daughter of a Pastor (now a Bishop). Though her family is black, they lived in white communities due to the nature of her father’s job. That experience has played into much of her art. These influences are evident in her unconventional concepts of gender identity and the fluidity of persona.
Pathology, Taxidermy and Art
She started studying forensic pathology, but soon realised this profession wasn’t for her. Nanipha then transferred the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art. The idea to work with cow hides came to her in a dream. She proceeded to train under a taxidermist to learn how to cure the hides and treat them with chemicals. However, she soon had to relocate her studio when the maggots and smells started freaking her university mate out. While completing her Masters the Stevenson Gallery in Johannesburg started representing her.
She participated in the Design Indaba Conference 2014 and won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art in 2011, for which she produced the national travelling exhibition Faena. She has had four solo shows at the Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town (2007, 2009, 2012) and Johannesburg (2009) and held her first European solo exhibition at Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, in 2013.
Reinventing the Art Box
As an artist there is a tendency for critics to ‘box and label’ your work, but Nanipha maintains it’s not about a cultural statement but more about the ‘material process’. She refuses to be cast by convention allowing her art to represent multiple personas. Her work is fluid and isn’t restricted to gender roles or cultural stereotypes. After the birth of her daughter she took a two-year break. Nanipha is now back in full swing and has done more painting, with one of her new themes focused on the mythology of the snake. She’s not afraid to test her own boundaries and try new avenues.
Blazing a Global Art Trail
Her works are part of museum collections at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, the Seattle Art Museum and the newly opened Zeitz Museum in Cape Town. Art collectors have noticed her works — which also include video, photography, painting and performance art — at art fairs like Art Basel, Paris Internationale and the New York Armory Show and in biennales from Venice to Sydney, Australia, to Dakar and Senegal. She has also participated in group exhibitions globally.
Creative Imagineering loves disrupting convention and thrives on boundless creativity.