South Africa’s new art-world power couple are reshaping their country’s story

April 1, 2021 - Emma Crichton-Miller | Financial Times

Artists Teresa Kutala Firmino and Blessing Ngobeni draw on their personal experiences to create powerful political work.


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Blessing’s Chaotic Pleasure visualizes black child’s future through art

August 31, 2020 - Mpiletso Motumi | IOL

Johannesburg - Blessing Ngobeni uses art to express his opinion.

“It is the best way for me to influence or engage in global matters that affect me and the world I live in.”

His solo exhibition, “Chaotic Pleasure”, is now showing at the Standard Bank Gallery.

“Art enables me to narrate stories of the past, historical events that affect the present life of a black child. I am able to visualise the future life of the black child through art.”

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Coded Inscriptions: Blessing Ngobeni's "Chaotic Pleasure'

July 6, 2020 - Review by Barnabas Ticha Muvhuti | Artthrob

The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines Stockholm Syndrome as ‘the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with their captor.’ It is hard to make sense of the multiple problems we face in this fast-moving world, so we soldier on like we are addicted to the disorder. Blessing Ngobeni’s ‘Chaotic Pleasure’ invites us to pause and reflect on the complex issues of power and abuse. It is also an ideal critical response to the confusing, dramatic, and uncertain times we are caught up in. The exhibition includes large scale mixed media paintings, sculpture and drawings in the artist’s trademark animated form. The artist also incorporates fascinating coded inscriptions.  The work is featured in the inaugural virtual National Arts Festival (vNAF), itself a response to the outbreak of the novel COVID-19 pandemic. Ngobeni is the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art for 2020.

The work in this exhibition addresses many issues traversing from the intensely personal – A Thing Of The Past Haunts I-VI  finds Ngobeni reflecting on a troubled past in the countryside, and in the urban jungle that is Johannesburg – to the pressing forces of the everyday. Key national problems like the contentious land ownership issue, tribalism, and corruption that derails progress are not spared in this conceptually rich, raw, and uncompromising show. Ngobeni is a proud African who wants to see a united continent moving forward, embracing progress. This is seen through his damning critique of xenophobia and the genocides of the past. In Shopping For Black Skin I & II, the artist also problematizes conflicts fueled by the outside world bent on stealing the continent’s resources amidst the chaos they create in cahoots with greedy African puppet leaders.


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Blessing Ngobeni wins Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Arts

November 20, 2019

Congratulations to Blessing Ngobeni for winning the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Arts in 2020. 

This year marks 36 years of Standard Bank’s sponsorship of the SBYAA and sees each winning young artist receiving a cash incentive, as well as a commission to premiere a new work or exhibit on the Main Programme of the 46th National Arts Festival, taking place in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) from 25 June to 5 July 2020. 

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“Art freed me from imprisonment.” An unexpected brush with destiny

September 6, 2019 - Beautiful News


This artist freed himself from imprisonment in the most unexpected way.

Was it luck, or destiny? Blessing Ngobeni could never have predicted his path to becoming a revered artist. Raised in an abusive household, Ngobeni ran away as a child and made it to Alexandra, where he joined the wrong crowd. At the age of 15, he was arrested for robbery and spent nearly six years in prison. It could have been rock bottom. Yet it was here that Ngobeni discovered his talents. Out of boredom, he started sketching fellow inmates’ portraits. Realising he could improve his capabilities and make a life for himself, Ngobeni began an astonishing journey to liberation. “Perhaps the universe wanted me to become an artist,” he says.

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Anatomy of (Collective) Apathy: Blessing Ngobeni’s ‘Enemy of Foe’

March 2, 2018 - Scott Eric Williams | ARTTHROB

‘Preoccupations’ is a word which arises repeatedly in descriptions of Blessing Ngobeni’s work and throughout the gallery text accompanying his exhibitions. In ‘Enemy of Foe’ –  the artist’s latest exhibition at CIRCA Cape Town – Ngobeni’s preoccupation take the form of a diligent study of political societal decay. A proper viewing of this body of work reflects a near textbook-like study, not just of one particular political structure, but a collection of flawed political strategies; a survey of past and present structures which are presented to us as detailed cross-section diagrams.

This scrutiny gets going straight from the Vinyl Text. ‘Enemy of Foe’ has a correlation with the expression ‘An Enemy of my enemy is my friend’. Through the use of this simple phrase our minds race to recall soured relations caused by succession battles for the South African presidency and similar happenings around the position of Cape Town mayor.

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