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Mncedi Madolo

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Artist 320

Mncedi Madolo

Classism and Collage

Mncedi Madolo is a South African artist who specializes in collage and painting. Born in the small town of Alice in the Eastern Cape Madolo explores urban space as a running theme his work. He lives and works in Johannesburg. It has been by living in the city that drew his attention to the realities of urban life.

Madolo explains, ‘Coming from rural Eastern Cape in South Africa, the big city has always been of great fascination to me. I am inspired by how South Africans navigate and engage with modernisation. We are not being modernised; we are living in a modern world.’

Madolo found himself surrounded by people living within the constraints of a lower middle-class existence within Johannesburg. It was here he noticed the severity of the onslaught by print and advertising media selling a dream to these people.

This presented interesting paradoxes and Madolo started implementing elements of this in his work. From magazine covers celebrating “black is beautiful” to the flyers advertising fast solutions to personal problems he uses found materials and presents them side by side with cartoon sketches mocking the status quo with brands looming in the background.

Madolo explains, ‘My last series was focussed on classism in a country that still doesn’t fully understand or appreciate its impact on our communities. A lot of this is due to our history as a country. Racism is still a big part of our daily lives, so things like classism when crossing racial lines almost always go unnoticed and misunderstood.

Classism, particularly in SA, comes with geopolitical issues. This means that some people become confined to certain spaces, though not by law, as it used to be. Instead, they are now confined to these spaces by socio-political and economic standing.

It’s not us who get modernised, but our environment, and the majority of us are getting left behind. What struck me most was the advertising targeted at lower middle classes. The dream they are being sold by big business.’

Many of the materials and images used in Mncedi Madolo’s paintings are collected from the street and present itself as a complex layering of stories. Madolo is also a skillful illustrator who freelances as a cartoon artist for major national newspapers.

Madolo in his collage work reconstructs popular motifs and imagery exploring how our worlds constantly make and remake themselves. Madolo uses non-traditional materials in his collage. This ranges from paper, photos, texts, and other related visual media all found within the city of Johannesburg.

Madolo’s also uses techniques like montage and staining processes to add layers to his work. His work features photographic portraits of people at the centre. He then begins his collage process. He layers, builds and creates around the figure. His work explores the experience and representation of many South Africans and the struggle ongoing within the country.

On the overarching Motif of his work Mncedi Madolo explains, ‘My art is about classism, exploring classism [as] a direct result of Apartheid.’

When asked what legacy he wishes to leave behind Madolo elaborates, ‘Lobola is a practice in my culture: where the groom’s family bestows part of their fortune to the bride’s family in gratitude for raising a good person. This money is usually used for the wedding and getting the new couple started on their new journey. I wish to teach black South Africans about the benefits of investing in art and exchanging art becomes a part of the Lobola negotiations.’

His collage work really explores classism in South Africa and reflects the duality of existing in post Apartheid South Africa.

Sources Consulted


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