The Poor Are Digging For Riches (SOLD)

Ntembeko Bonkolo


Oil on Canvas


91cm x 61cm

More Artwork by Ntembeko Bonkolo

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Ntembeko Bonkolo was born in Cala in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in 1987. He received his B-Tech (with cum laude) from Walter Sisulu University in 2011.

Artist Statement:

I do not limit myself to one medium, style or concept. Inspiration and ideas change. Knowledge changes. Each piece I create is simultaneously an extension from the past, where I’ve come from and what I’ve learned, as well as a preview of the future. My themes, therefore depict the change (transition) from the Xhosa traditional way of life to modern living. I was interested in knowing why and how Xhosa people were gradually moving away from their traditional way of life. I have noticed that those traditional practices that are fast fading had cultural values. Those practices symbolised the tribal way of life. They have meaning to the people who practiced them. Those tribal practices held the tribe together. In this project I have tried to show how the traditional way of life benefited the society in which the amaxhosa co-existed. I have observed that people who have very little material goods can also seem content.

In the rural areas people used simple tools and yet those were effective. I have noticed, now that I am an adult, a change from the lifestyle I grew up to know. I have used different mediums within my paintings. The mediums depend on the situation and what I would like to express.

The shapes that I use express my themes, therefore my painting on round canvases is influenced by the shape. The background to me is symbolic. To illustrate what a particular background symbolises I make use of particular colours. Dark colours, to me, are reflective of the past, receding like day following the night. I make use of stars to make, manifest and establish that although there is darkness there is light. Although our past is changing or being overwhelmed by modernity, there are elements that cannot be obliterated all together.

To show the separation of cultures I use P.V.A paint for the painting of the canvases so that cracks develop. I mix paint and glue to ensure that the paint lasts. The cracks symbolise the moving away of the individual from the tradition. The image is thus set against the cracking background to show that the person is in conflict. The person is moving away from Xhosa tradition and is slowly being westernised.


2016            Tanya Baxter Contemporary Art Gallery, London

2014            Thami Mnyele Fine Art Awards

2014            Joburg Fringe

2014            Assemblage opening studio

2009-2010   National Art Festival

2011            Ann Bryant Art Gallery

2010            Cartoon Project