A TRULY FINE ARTIST
*Caption: Dumisani Mngonyama next to some of his artwork.
Written by: Zama Ngcoya
Neatly dressed in dark blue jeans, a black thick winter jacket, and immaculately cleaned Converse sneakers, Mngonyama possesses a rather different appearance than which is typically expected from a Fine Artist.
The tall and proud Zulu male who boasts traditional incisions on his face puts one at great ease when he displays his charismatic smile as he sits down for an interview- showing much zeal to share his story with Journalismiziko.
Dumisani Mngonyama was born in February 10, 1984 in the area of KwaMachi, between Portshepstone and Harding. Unlike most boys his age, he found the indoors rather intriguing.
“Growing up, I did not do much of the activities that most boys got up to. I spent most of my time at home listening to music with my family. However, I did not dwell much in it because I knew my calling was in the Fine Arts,” said Mngonyama.
When Mngonyama reached high school at Mbuse High, finding the suitable facilities to further explore his love for Fine Art proved to be quite challenging as the school was based in the rural areas, with the most popular subjects being mathematics and science. To put his love for art in motion, he would have to explore other avenues.
“Since the school was in the rural areas, it was difficult to find the facilities to explore my art. So I used to travel from school and visit libraries in distant areas just so I could get more information to equip myself and be just like the other children in the urban areas with better opportunities,” he added.
For Mngonyama, it was his isiZulu teacher’s insistence on neatness and creativity which propelled him deeper into the arts. He realised that he oozed creativity in 2003 when he painted a traditionally inspired cover page for his isiZulu portfolio. The work produced not only stroked his ego, but it was admired by all educators and students, earning him great recognition.
Although he was able to execute with great ease any form of drawing or painting, he later formulated his own artistry concept inspired by tradition, which would distinguish him from the other artists.
Although Mngonyama is now a thriving business man, and working towards a Diploma in Fine Art, life has dealt him his fair share of raw deals.
When he moved to Durban in the year 2007, with the hopes of uplifting himself, he became an avid visitor of the Bartle Arts Trust (BAT) Centre after he heard about it through the grape vines. However, his longing for an in depth understanding of his craft and a qualification next to his name, he decided to enrol for Fine Art at the Durban University of Technology (DUT).
Because he had never formally done arts before, Mngonyama had to enrol in the extended programme at the University so he would acquire a background in art and as a result the initial three years of study were extended to four years.
With both parents being deceased, and the poor finances at home, Mngonyama was forced to put his studies on hold after a year-long in the institution. He decided to get into the security industry as a means of generating an income to survive and pay for his studies.
While in this line of work, his true calling was never laid to rest. He created some artworks for Dunlop, the company where he worked as a security guard for over three years.
With the many years in the industry, he was able to raise enough funds to send money home, sustain himself, and continue with his studies.
He continued to produce art pieces, a portrait for eThekwini Mayor, James Nxumalo, a portrait of Smangele Chauke from the Department of Arts and Culture, and many others. He made it through this entire process as a single agent, with no assistance.
After much hard work and dedication, Mngonyama has also established his own company, with a rather unique name.
“What inspired me to start my own company was moving from University, and going into the security industry. My mind was not set on that particular job. I observed how to distinguish between a student and a working person and I realised that a worker does not live in their own rights. Even though it is possible. The security industry drove and inspired me to want to be my own boss one day and that is when I decided to register my own company,” said Mngonyama.
He added that his company, Red Eye Art and Design, the company which was established in 2013 rendered services based within the arts such as printing T-shirts, doing paintings, murals, sign writings, portraits and many more.
He emphasised that he was majorly inspired by the desire to generate his own income, from his own company, and being his own boss.
Mngonyama said added that coming from a destitute family inspired him to want to build a legacy for himself, and his family has been very supportive throughout his efforts. Except for his family, he is also inspired by his love for media, and people like Ntandazo Khalala, who made a name for himself after working for an NGO and then becoming a producer.
Close friend and confidant of Mngonyama, Mhlonishwa Chiliza described him as a lively character.
“He is a very friendly and ambitious person who loves music, arts and interacting with others.
Mngonyama shared some words with other upcoming artists.
“If you wish to be a successful artist, dream about in your sleep, and dream about it when you are on your feet. After that, implement those dreams no matter what. In life we might be identical, but our fingerprints are not the same, and also the way that we are destined to walk in life. Do what you have to do with no setbacks, and you shall prosper,” concluded Mngonyama.
In the future, the aspiring mogul sees himself being recognised not only on the national stage, but internationally as well. He also hopes to travel to France where he will showcase his talents and inspire people, before coming back to South Africa to spoon-feed people who are disadvantaged like himself.