Artist Interview: Xhanti Zwelendaba – In Defiance Of Disciplines, Or More Than Words

September 28, 2021

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Xhanti Zwelendaba is a Featured Artist of the Year at the Turbine Art Fair 21.


What sort of training have you received and how important do you think it is to seek training (in terms of learning first principles and refining technique)?

I received training from Johan Carinus Art School in Makhanda during my high school years and then from the Michealis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. The question of training and its importance is nuanced and tricky. I think it’s both beneficial and detrimental. On one hand, with training, good training at that, you develop an understanding of your creativity and craft – not to mention access to facilities, spaces and other brilliant minds. The detrimental side comes from the limiting that can happen through training. Many ideas die at the hands of institutes and their desired outcomes.


What is your principal medium, and why did you choose it?

I don’t consider any medium my principal medium. Even though I have professional training in an array of mediums, I don’t have a particular one I’m more inclined towards. I refer to myself as an anti-disciplinary artist. The manner in which I work is always an attempt to find the best possible way of expressing an idea or sentiment and through that virtue I always have to be open to trying new mediums and alternative materials.


Describe the techniques you use most? How complicated are your methods, and why is each step necessary?

There are so many different techniques I’ve used throughout the many different artworks I have made. As I’ve said before, the techniques – many of which go into one artwork – are all dependent on the best way to translate what’s in my head. I don’t have any specific methods of realising an artwork. Sometimes an artwork comes through literature, and sometimes it comes out of nowhere. The one constant that I do have though is having notepads in most places in my life. I am always prepared to receive and document a thought or an idea that could become an artwork at some point.


Who is the single other artist whose style you most admire, and why?

There are too many to mention, but I’ve always been an admirer of Lungiswa Gqunta and her work. I am always interested in her subject choices and the materials she chooses to represent her sentiments and ideas.


Galleries and other traditional means are only one way of marketing art. What do you believe are the most important other routes, and what is the most important insight you have gained in that area in your career?

It’s impossible for your mind not to go straight to social media and online platforms and spaces when that question comes up. But I think one of the most overlooked route is networking with other artists. Meeting and speaking to other artists, sharing ideas, debating, assisting one another, being present and being critical – a network that holds each other accountable for the standard of art they they’re producing – to me, that’s the most important route.


Why do you create? What are your stated goals in producing art?

I create because I think verbal communication is very limited – and limiting. I enjoy the idea of sharing my thoughts through visual signifiers and the possibility someone else will have a completely different interpretation of the work and both these interpretations can exist In the same place. Right now, my most immediate plan is to finish my MFA at Wits. After that, I’ll open myself to many opportunities that could come my way and keep sharing my ideas with everyone and anyone willing to listen.

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