When local artist Nkokheli Mzimba was granted the opportunity to paint parts of Buffalo City, he saw it as a chance to not only showcase his talent but also to share Xhosa traditional prints with the world.
Mzimba’s work can be seen at different points around East London including along Orient Beach and along the walls on Settlers Way. His signature style of using bright colours to paint Imibhaco- influenced paintings has made the BCM area more appealing to residents and tourists.
He fell in love with art when he was a pupil at West Bank High School and further sharpened his skills by studying art and design at Buffalo City College (formerly East London College). He creates his art using spray paint, stencils, plastic primers and paint for exterior use.
“I enjoy public art because it is so much bigger, and it is a better surface to work on. I enjoy working with larger surfaces. I first started with A1-size paintings. I realised that I enjoy doing projects that promote community engagement, social cohesion and things that get people talking.
“I also love beautifying space, especially places like decaying bridges. Someone’s yard with nice fencing and street-facing walls, or those dustbins with funny posters on them also make good canvases. I like to paint it with something authentic and bring colour,” Mzimba said.
When Buffalo City Metropolitan Development Agency (BCMDA) put out an advertisement last year looking for an artist with more than 10 years’ experience in the public space, Mzimba applied immediately. With multiple projects of similar in different provinces like Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo under his belt, he was confident that he had a great opportunity at his fingertips.
“We want to work with all the different departments at BCM. For example, with sports, we want to create murals in East London and Mdantsane of great sporting heroes.
“We want to celebrate them through paintings and sculptures. This is one of the many projects we hope to complete within the six-month contract,” he said.
Mzimba is also a skilled ceramist who runs Totoba Ceramics and he is also part of the South African Creatives Industry Incubation Programme.
“We create ceramic plates, bowls, ashtrays and anything that we can make using clay. We create the pieces ourselves and paint them using Imibhaco designs. This is another way for us to preserve our Xhosa heritage through artistic forms.
“We want to take our old history and modernise it and put it in public spaces so people can see. Through ceramics, people can buy the pieces and preserve the history,” Mzimba said.