About The Artist
Born in Eshowe, Bongi Bengu left South Africa when her family went into political exile. Her schooling was in Switzerland and Swaziland. She obtained a BA in Fine Arts, Cum Laude from Mount Vernon College in Washington D.C. , and subsequently retuned to South Africa, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. She has exhibited widely and has been the recipient of a number of residencies abroad.
Bengu’s work has been described as social commentary about her life. In her early works Bengu worked mainly in collage, drawing upon images from popular media, playing with pervasive representations. In the later years Bengu has moved towards more subtle forms of expression. Her paintings have moved from the specific, more towards a form of expression where light, dark and texture have replaced the more literal expressions - a freedom where the narrative can be submerged and the essence can be explored.
The series called The Wheel are all inspired by my spiritual journey and daily meditations rooted in India. The symbols refer to "the chakras" or the energy centres of the body. Through regular meditation, one aligns these centres - thereby creating feelings of peace, harmony and bliss. Over the years, my work has been evolving in texture and depth, I have worked with soil, collage, painting and printmaking because my work is about layering different realities, histories, memories and emotions.
My recent output - the Imvuselo (re-birth /awakening) utilising leaves - and engagement with nature, preserving, questioning and re-interpreting the meaning of life and its organism, speaks of the process of decay and renewal (of life). This body of work reflects the contrast of dark and light, the powerful and disempowered, the paradoxes of life. It also echoes my experience of exile and homecoming.
1975-1977: Khandisa Primary School, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. Grade 1-Grade 2
1978-1987: International School of Geneva, Switzerland. Grade 3-Grade 11
1987-1989: Waterford Kamhlaba, United World College Of Southern Africa, Mbabane, Swaziland. International Baccalaureate
1989-1993: Mount Vernon College, Washington DC, USA, Bachelor of Arts, Cum, Laude. Major: Fine Art
1994-1997: University of Cape Town, South Africa. MFA- Power Gained-Power Lost: Aspects of Contemporary African Woman Visualised
1997: Standard Bank Award: Trainee Curator at the National Gallery, Cape Town
1996 – 1997: University of Cape Town Maclver Scholarship – Award to promising postgraduate women students in Michealis School of Fine Art
1996 – 1997: University of Cape Town CSD Scholarship
1995 – 1997: University of Cape Town A W Mellon
1992: National Museum of African Art Certificate of Recognition Washington DC
1993: Mount Vernon College - Alphi Chi National Honour Society Award
1993: Mount Vernon College - Arts and Humanities Award
1993: Mount Vernon College - Fine Arts Award
1993-1994: Who’s who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges
1992-1993: Mount Vernon College - Merit Award
1987: International School of Geneva-French
2013: Welcome to Bongism, Solo Exhibition, Art Afrique Gallery, Sandton, Johannesburg
2008: Emancipation, Solo Exhibition, Constitutional Hill, Johannesburg
2007: B2B, Solo Show, Westcliff, Johannesuburg.
2004: Woman, Solo show, Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town
2003: Woman, Solo show, The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg
2003: Faces, Solo show, Dat Hoghehus, Germany
1998: Solo Exhibition, Spier Contemporary, Cape Town
1997: Solo Exhibition, Association of Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery, Cape Town
2018: Ways of Seeing and Beeing Seen,Johannesburg
2018: Harlerm Arts festival, New York
2015: SA Art 21 Years after Democracy, Durban Art Gallery
2015: Identity-Cohesion,Grahamstown Arts Festival
2015: Portretteer, Oude Libertas Gallery, Stellenbosch
2014: Harlem Arts Festival,Chicago,USA
2014: Sanaa Arts Festival,Johannesburg
2014: Eshowe Heritage Arts Festival,KZN
2013: Inkunzi Emanxeba: The legacy continues…, touring exhibition, Durban, Polokwane, Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Eastern Cape and Johannesburg
2012: 21BF, a 21st retrospective exhibition, The Bag Factory Studios, Johannesburg
2011: My Selection, Group exhibition, Artspace, Johannesburg
2010: Friends, Stuttgart, Germany
2009: Babette’s Feast, Artspace, Johannesburg
2009: Innovative Women, touring exhibition, Constitutional Hill, Jeannette Unite Studio, Kizo Gallery
2009: Sharing/Shared, Alliance Francaise, Johannesburg
2008: Heptad, Artspace, Johannesburg
2008: Visions, Kizo Gallery, Durban
2007: Possibilities, Mumbai, India.
2005: World beyond Words: A Visual Arts Platform of Contemporary Women’s Art in South Africa, Centre for African Studies Gallery, University of Cape Town
2004: A Decade of Democracy: Witnessing South African Art, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
2004: Group show, Identity, Fortis Circus Theatre, Scheveningen, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2004: Ten Years of Freedom: Contemporary South African Art, Yac Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
2003: Group show, Artspace, Johannesburg
2003: Dreams for our Daughters, The Klein Karoo Arts Festival (KKNK), Oudtshoorn, Western Cape
2003: Crossing-Knotting, Berlin, Germany
2002: 10/10, The Bag Factory Studios, Johannesburg
2001: The Big Bag Show, The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg
2001: La Hijas de la Terre, Tenerife, Canary Islands
2001: Viewline, Solothurn, Switzerland
2000: The Hourglass Project, A Woman’s Vision, Atlanta, USA.
2000: Cross cultural currents, Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg
2000: Rivers of Spirit: Art Women in the African Diaspora, University of Illinois, USA.
2000: Jak South African Art and Design, London
1999: Group Exhibition, Association of Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery, Cape Town
1998 – 1999: South African Aesthetics, Travelling Exhibition, USA.
1998: Family Ties, Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg
1997: La Boheme: Noir, Primart Gallery, Cape Town
1997: Survivors in Search of a Voice: Art Exhibition, Johannesburg
1997: South African Landscapes, Primart Gallery, Cape Town
1996: Cognisance: The Creative Cape, Association of Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery, Cape Town
2006: Landscape International Workshop, Ngong forest, Kenya.
2005: International Workshop, Zambia.
2004: Sansa International Workshop, Kumasi, Ghana
2001: AltesSpital, Solothurn Switzerland
2000: National Black Arts Festival, Atlanta, USA
2000: Gasworks, London
1998: Printmaking Workshop in London with Master - Printer Jack Sheriff
1998: Montana Artist’s Refuge, Montana USA
PRESENTATIONS AND OTHER ACTIVITIES
2013-2014: Bambatha Steering Commette member,DAC
2006: Trustee Arts & Culture Trust.
2003: Board member of Unisa Art Gallery. 2002: University of Cape Town, Cape Town
2000: School of Oriental and African Studies, London
2000: London Print Studio, London
Billiton B.H.P., Johannesburg
De Beers, Johannesburg
Rand Water, Johannesburg
Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg
Florida A & M University, Tallahassee, USA
Musée De la Civilisation, Québec, Canada
Department of Arts & Culture, Pretoria
The Spier, Stellenbosch
Rand Merchant Bank, Johannesburg
UCT, Cape Town
Canton of Solothurn Government Offices, Switzerland
Nandos Art Collention, London
Van Den Ende Collection, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
South African High Commission, Maseru, Lesotho