Jackson Nkumanda

Biography

Picture Jackson Nkumanda

I was born in Cradock in 1948.
A member of 14 in the family. I am a twin with a twin sister Bonsiswa Jill Nkumanda and my name is Monani Jackson Nkumanda. I used to fight at school with some boys, the naughty boys they said “Jack and Jill went up the hill and Jack fell down”. We are nine brothers and five sisters, my mother was a dressmaker and she made grass mats, at the same time of Apartheid they changed my name to Jackson. My father was a tanner, I do not know why.
I left school in Standard 2 at Cradock. At school I liked handwork and making drawings for the teachers, I also liked playing the flute and penny whistle, which I learnt from my cousin brother Shadrack Nkumanda. I learnt it only a day after the departure of my cousin brother, whereas all my other brothers learnt but in vain. I liked kwela music so they called my “Spokes” imitating the late Spokes Mashiyane.
I left for Somerset East and stayed with my sister Nomvula only for a year. Then I went to King William’s Town and worked in construction servicing the earthworks. In 1967 I went to Kuruman in the Northern Cape to cotton mine. In 1969 I left for Stilfontein and worked on the gold mines.
I 1971 I went to Kroonstad, Free State where I sketched a portrait of Elvis Presley; one of my employers asked for the portrait and I gave it to him at gratis because I was not aware of the importance of art. I was pressurized in the mines and I would take “French Leave” which resulted in arrest. At the end of 1971 I went home to King William’s Town where I made a statue in clay. In 1972 I left for Port Elizabeth where I connected with a builder and took carpentry. One of my cousins who was also a twin and my equal was Jiba Mda who later was my teacher to be, he advised me to leave carpentry for art and said that art was my career. He gave me some charts and geography drawings.
In 1974 I went to night school to do Standard 5. I made a world map, 3 dimensional with fitted light bulbs connected to a battery so that when the teacher would talk about a country he could push a button and the light would shine on the country in question. By then my father used to listen to the 4am news. We had a problem of waking up in such early hours, which was very difficult for us. He made a plan with electric wires, which I connected from the clock to the radio. When 4am rings, the radio switches on. Really, it was marvelous, they all wondered. Then I joined Agricultural shows in the Ciskei where our works were exhibited. I would get first prizes. My works were woodwork, tinwork, clay, leatherwork, painting and braiding.
In 1975 I left for Uitenhage where I was converted to Christianity. My brother was a priest and they had Gospel singers with no instruments. I made a bass guitar with a plank and an amplifier with a record player unit. Eventually one of my cousins bought new instruments and they then abandoned my man—made ones. My cousin Jiba Mda died in a car accident in 1975 and then I began to make art because he had said that that was my career.
In 1990 I left for Cape Town where I got carpentry work in Wynburg. After a year a neighbour asked me to make drawings around his shack; this spread to other people. In 1991 I founded my new 3D Art using crushed sand, brick, rubber, stones, tin, cardboard mixed with contact glue.
We are all talented in my family: my brother Kinki is a shoemaker, Dinise a sculptor, Alfred an artisan, Ndoyisile a blacksmith, William a steel artist, Mangalise a son of all trades, Thobile a leatherworker, Themba the last son is a bricklayer.
In 1994 I started to exhibit my work in Michael and Anthea Methven’s gallery. From there my work has traveled all over the world. They have organized commissions from Old Mutual for the Soweto Marathon, as well as football artworks that are now in the board rooms of Chelsea and Manchester United Football Clubs. I now mainly supply a gallery in Italy. The South African National Gallery has the artwork I did of Nelson Mandela’s Presidential inauguration.
At the moment I am busy with my artwork as well as recording CD5 with my Gospel Group where I sing my own compositions and play the piano and of course I still play the penny whistle. Furthermore, our longterm goal is to produce a pilot and series of films using stop-frame animation techniques. We will thus be “bringing my work to life”.

Jackson Nkumanda


Solo Exhibitions:

1993
Gallery 709, Cape Town

1997
Studio d’Arte Raffaelli, Trento

1999
Arti Assortite — Associazione Culturale, Torino

2000
Studio d’Arte Raffaelli, Trento
Associazione Culturale Betta Frigieri, Sassuolo (MO)

2003
Naj Oleari, in collaborazione con Studio d’Arte Raffaelli di Trento, Milano

2004
Arte & Moda, Mascheroni Moda, in collaborazione con Studio d’Arte Raffaelli di Trento, Giussano (MI)
L’Ariete Arte Contemporanea, Bologna

2005
Studio d’Arte Raffaelli, Trento

Group exhibitions:

1991
Affinities, SANG

1993
Contemporary Images of the Western Cape, SANG and touring

1998
Contemporary Art Cologne - Studio d’Arte Raffaelli, Cologne

2001
Galleria Civica, Bolzano

2002
Fuori Uso, Ex—Albergo “Ferrotel”, Pescara

2003
Centro Arte Contemporanea, Cavalese (TN)

For the latest exhibitions of the artist, please see the Appointments' Archive