Daily Art

Introducing Nonka Mbonambi Through New Series Titled, “Some Men Value Their Cows More Than Their Wives”

photography credit: Dillion S Phiri

Nonkanyiso ‘Nonka’ Mbonambi is a South African visual artist, curator, mother and founder of CURATICA – an emerging public art platform dedicated to “showcasing the role of art in society” and “provoking conversations” needed to address global issues. Hailing all the way from KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast, Mbonambi’s practice aims to probe and draw attention to the role that art plays in education, empowerment and the building of social cohesion. In her work as a visual artist and CURATICA founder, she has led and trained other womxn artists on mural painting to raise awareness on issues concerning gender-based violence, public health, and Covid-19 across South Africa.

In her first solo series on canvas in eight years, visual artist Nonka presents a new body of work titled, ‘Some Men Value Their Cows More Than Their Wives’. The collection consists of a series of intriguing portraits that invite the viewer to consider questions of perception, power, and respectability in the wake of Zulu marriages and the customary payment of lobola from the groom’s family to the bride’s. She approaches these three questions in forms of large-format, roughly textured paintings of a mythical cow merged with a womxn. It is an explicit and intentional unmasking of “how men perceive womxn once lobola has been paid,” she explains. I asked her a two-in-one question about the body of work.

Can you in fine detailing explain the concept behind the title, and why was it important for you to visually address this conversation?

The title is inspired by a series of conversations with peers, my family and the realisation that somehow there is a guessing game on what and who determines the value of a womxn in marriage and seldom are the womxn being measured ever consulted. This value now is forever used as collateral, a measuring stick and creates strange expectations from husbands and those around us. This game of how many cows are you worth is seen in how men treat their wives once married and womxn are expected to submit to their male counterparts once married.

The series depicts the idea of “cowbola” as a means to provoke thoughts and conversations on women being valued as cows and being told how to behave and where to eat, where to live just like cows. 

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