Mfundo Mbali: An Artist With A Soft Spot For Ordinary Village Life

Mfundo Mbali Joseph’s works speak of the life in the village that becomes nostalgia for a rapidly urbanized world.

Mfundo Mbali Joseph has incredible works. His paintings bring to mind some of the great painters. One of his fans compared his works to those of a Dane L.A Ring- a painter whose work invoke normal peasant life such as in the painting Charles ‘Hay-wire’ Patoshik-played by Silas Weir Mitchell-in the popular American TV series Prison Break was obsessed with and which he stole in a blind woman’s house after breaking out of Fox River Penitentiary. Personally, I saw the works of Dutch Painter Vin-cent Van Gogh. However, the things we see in the art are what the West has interred into our brains through movies, books and the popularity of their works.  Moreso, the price tag on works like Van Gogh’s sets them apart as pacemakers of what we perceive as quality art nowadays.

Mfundo Mbali’s work is fresh, local, vivid and soft. It breathes a fresh life to that for-gotten village life, bringing the innocence, the normal and the motherly. It retains the ordinary and relishes the freshness of stained clothes and the value of hard work. 

When one comes across Mfundo Mbali’s works, the awe goes towards not the beauty but the details with which he captures the village life. The artist, who hails in Bloemfontein South Africa, is modest despite the acclaim his works receive both on social media and those who interact with him in real life. In August, for example, his work was on display in New York at Dacia Gallery on 53 Stanton- an exhibition dubbed ‘Painting the American Dream.’ According to him, the New York show went well and some of his works were selected by the Boston Auction House for an auction later this year. 

Inspired by the man behind Black Mona Lisa painting Richard Bollers, Mfundo Mbali largely credits his mastery on his industry. “I am a self-taught artist,” he says while I feel like I am wasting his time. A prolific painter, Mfundo Mbali believes in the value of hard work. If not in his studio, he is traversing his hometown in Rouxville taking snapshots for his further works.

As a fast-rising artist, Mfundo Mbali made a name for himself during the Macufe Arts Festival in 2015. Though little known at the time his painting, “Khoisan Woman Washing’ set him apart among other artists. However, it is ‘Bani’s Guitar’ that would win the second prize in the fair. He has also showcased his works at the National Arts Festival, Vaal Arts Festival, Tulghbag Arts Festival and looking forward to hosting a solo show soon.   

The artist, who wishes to exhibit in Kenya’s Nairobi Gallery, teamed up with a friend and partner Vuyisile Adoons on a mural at a church in Aliwal North, Eastern Cape. The mural, expansive and bright, graces the church from one end to another with its warm enticing beauty.

The artist’s soft touch to village life and his focus on the normal life of those outside the hustle and buzz of urban life set him apart among the young crop artists who have resolved to use village life as fodder for their creativity. Moreover, the art is not subject to a lot of interpretation but that of village innocence not polluted with urbanism and the sometime annoying technology. In a world, rapidly spinning out of control, the artist reminds us of the sane village life- a life we look at as backward. He draws miles and miles of empty vastness- he draws the community- the simplicity of life un-fettered by all the shenanigans of cultural confusion.   

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