To call upon an angelic touch is to believe in a divine appointment, a call for guidance
through life’s uncertain journey.
In Ukuzihlukanisa, Mpumelelo explores ideas of self-reflection, identity, and spirituality through black and white digital photographs. Through a series of self-portraits and portraits, he has produced a new body of work that takes inspiration from the isolation experienced during the national lockdown. In the initial stages he used his bedroom as a studio to make the self-portraits, seen in the choice of props used by the artist: bubble wrap, tin foil, lace fabric, bed sheets, and other materials found in a home. The images attempt to depict the meditative state of the artist when he started to wonder about the biblical concept of an angel and how he could elevate himself spiritually to attain the level of divinity and purity described in the holy book. As the process developed, Mpumelelo invited his friends to participate in the act of image-making, reflecting a need for companionship drawn from his inclusion of others in this introspective work.
This body of work asks us to consider a time when man (human) as described in the bible was holy and without sin. Could this be Mpumelelo’s way of coping with the isolation and the global pandemic that exposed the true nature of man? In essence, this work is about what it means to be human. An existential question that most people grapple with, even more so during the isolation of quarantine implemented during the first national lockdown. Mpumelelo came face to face with the precariousness of (Black) life and in turn sought aid from what he perceived as an entity beyond the self.
Mpumelelo Buthelezi is a South African photographer who lives and works in Johannesburg. He completed his Photojournalism and Documentary Photography degree at the Market Photo Workshop in 2017. In his practice, Mpumelelo’s work explores the themes of social activism and religion as well as the ways that people sustain themselves like in the case of waste pickers. Mpumelelo’s work finds itself at the intersection between documentation, storytelling and activism.
Mpumelelo was recently selected for an artist residency programme with the Consulate Italian Embassy with Centro Luigi Di Sarro(Italy) for pack-and go travel exhibition tour residency in 2022. He is one the 10 selected awarded projects for the Social Impact Award’ 2022. He is the recent 11th recipient of the Cassirer Welz Award 2021 which includes artist residency program and a solo exhibition at Bag Factory Artists Studios. He received the 2nd Heather B. Mattera 2022 photography scholarship to study in New York. He was part of the TEXT ME curatorial programme with Media Arts Festival 2022 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. In 2021, Mpumelelo was awarded the best photographer of the year category under North-West Media Awards.
Mpumelelo is been on artist residency with Sir Prof Zanele Muholi and Muholi Productions in 2021,KZN, also participated in a virtual residency with Wendy.network Arts Unchained in 2021. His work was exhibited at Kampala Photo Biennale 2022/2021 in Uganda, Transitions Rotterdam Foto Festival in the Netherlands in 2019, Foto Schiedam Festival in the Netherlands in 2019, and had his first solo exhibition at Wetilt Gallery in Italy 2019, CULTVR LAB Catalyst 360 solo Exhibition gallery in Wales,UK 2022. Mpumelelo went on to exhibit his photographs at Social Art Award in Germany 2019, and was the 2nd prize winner for Nikon Yellow competition in 2018.He lives and works in Johannebsurg, South Africa.