Fine arts student creates Xhosa-inspired sculptures

the herald

Although art was not part of the curriculum when Simphiwe Mbunyuza arrived in high school, that did not stop the master’s graduate from pursuing his dreams.

Mbunyuza (32), from the rural village of Butterworth in the Eastern Cape, recently completed her Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma in the United States.

He specializes in ceramics and shared that he builds sculptural vessels that carry elements taken from Xhosa cultural activities.

“When I arrived in high school, I was a little lost because art was not part of the curriculum, but I was lucky that one of the teachers took me under his wing and gave me the opportunity to practicing art. After finishing my 12th year at Msobomvu secondary school, I took a gap year to think about what I really wanted to study. My grandmother advised me to go for the art rather than for the law,” said Mbunyuza.

He said he then applied to Walter Sisulu University to study fine art and it was there that he was exposed to different mediums and techniques.

“In 2017, I was the only South African chosen to go to Vallauris in France for a ceramic residency program. There were five of us from different countries and we shared the same studio and worked together.

“One of them was Professor Stuart Asprey from the University of Oklahoma. Based on the conversation I had with him, we ended up discussing academic matters and I shared with him that I would really like to study abroad,” he said. He said Asprey asked him to apply to the university’s ceramics program.

“It turned out that my conversation with Professor Asprey was part of an interview for the Master of Fine Arts program. Even after we left France, he pushed me to apply and I was accepted,” he said.

Mbunyuza said he paid for his travel and living expenses, but the university gave him a scholarship that covered tuition. “I also worked as an assistant lecturer at the university, which made my job a lot easier,” he said.

Mbunyuza said that he loves creating art and draws inspiration from Xhosa culture which then adds more drama in his work. — Sowetan.

Kayleen C. Rice