‘A cosmic vessel of spiritual art’

20 September 2019

‘’Mina ndingu Tshawe’’ this is how Ayanda Mabulu, a South African abstract artist known for his emotive, graphic artistry introduces himself to us. We meet him at Victoria Yards, Space Mecca Studios at around 11 am on a fine Johannesburg morning.

A spirited encounter with Ayanda Mabulu

This is a rare behind the scenes viewing of Ayanda putting finishing touches to one of the pieces that form part of the collection – Art Spiritual Vessel. His latest collection was unveiled at the recently held FNB Art Joburg. We watch him put brush to canvas and marvel at his attention to detail and impeccably fine symmetry.

The 38-year-old, Kingswilliamstown born artist holds paintbrush in hand, with music playing in the background of his live-in studio. ‘’He says he hasn’t slept much’’ a friend of his chimes. For someone who has been deprived of sleep, he is very present honest, sincere, intriguing, raw and robust. Here’s what he had to say to us.

What should art enthusiasts and collectors expect from Art Spiritual Vessel?

‘’People just want to see beauty.’’ He sternly says this while emphasizing that he creates a grotesque form of expressive art. This collection is one of spirit and healing. It is detailed in patterns and symmetry, and it boasts images of the late Mama Winnie Mandela.

When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

‘’It is not a matter of me being creative, creating is innate and intrinsic in me’’. It is part of his ancestral lineage. He further says, his family has been creating long before what we have come to define and understand as art. This ingenuity we see today, according to Ayanda is bestowed unto him by his ancestors.

‘’Art is very prophetic’’

What inspired your artistic process for this collection?

‘’My sister, I die a little inside’’ he says. He expressed that every time he creates something, he feels as though he loses a layer of himself. He dies a little.

‘’What are we doing about the current state of our country?’’ Speaking with angst in his face, on the current rampant femicide and violent assaults committed against women and children. Art as a form of catharsis and healing inspired this collection, informed by our current state of affairs. He used the late iconoclast, Mama Winnie Mandela as a symbol of matriarchal strength in this body of work. He wanted to tell the stories of women. Women are the light, they are love supreme, he emphasizes. He says he’d like his work to be received as a form of healing.

‘’Women are the light’’


What is the significance of the shrine?

As Ayanda continues to work on his canvas, a member of his team lays out the ‘’imphepho’’ and several candles. These are to be lit, to welcome the elders, his ancestors. The people who are in the forever sleep are always with me. He emphasizes the importance of welcoming and acknowledging their presence during his creative process.


‘’The spirited people who are living in the world of forever sleep are constantly guiding me.’’


Which forms of art do you consume?

‘’I hate art’’ – the word art. But I listen to Zim Nqawana, the late Brenda Fassie and what is considered jazz music, among others.

A spirited encounter with Ayanda Mabulu, abstract artist

A closing word

A very pragmatic artist, Ayanda uses various forms of materials for his paintings and he infuses it with dark historical imagery; such as colonial Africa. He describes himself as a ‘very melanated, black cosmic individual’. Melanated is derived from melanin to describe his beautiful pigment; the substance that gives colour. The term ‘avatar’ is a regular in his lexicon, his studio is also adorned with visuals of space-age objects and orbiting planets.

He is a contemporary artist creating for the next generation. A multilayered and complex creator, some may even say anti-establishment, rebellious or controversial. Yet isn’t that what the essence of art is? To appeal to the senses or emotions, observe and depict the cultural times.

Ayanda is currently based at Space Mecca Studios, he has made it a fortress of his creations. The space at large; Victoria Yards, houses a plethora of entrepreneurial artists and fresh produce gardens. Fitting for the artist, who is rooted in nature.

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