Johannesburg based artist Mathews Tshuma.
Photo: @noncedocharmaine

Staying inspired in a time of chaos

We are stuck in a very weird moment, the only thing certain right now are the uncertainties we face.

Looting, thieving politicians, jabs, conspiracies, commissions, fellow South Africans, unemployment, with immediate effect, very weird, everything is overwhelmingly weird.

Eskom and the government have been the piss in our corn flakes, consistently, omunye ucima ugesi, omunye ucima amanzi kagesi. Our current situation is breathing through the wound while being rushed to hospital in a R10 million scooter ambulance. Imagine.

A lot of my peers have been openly discussing their mental burnout, the clenching feelings of helplessness and assorted mischievous anxieties. It is a mental illness fest. Kusemahlanyeni. We are in need of motivation. In need of each other. In need of good old love.

How to inspire? That is the question asked in the first episode of a podcast by three of my favourite cultural icons/creative practitioners (The Midnight Miracle by Dave Chappelle, Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey). This question has stayed with me and got me thinking of the number of people doing beautiful things amidst the mess. How do they stay inspired to create for the rest of us? Who looks after them? To feel so intensely, carry the burden of bringing this drunk world to sobriety and have the inability to assimilate to the madness leaves you a social outcast, it is crazy. Think Kabelo Sello Duiker, Moses Taiwa Molelekwa, Can Themba, Dumile Feni, Phaswane Mpe, Brenda Fassie, Lebo Mathosa, Busi Mhlongo, think of all the beauty they created for us in the chaos that surrounded them.

To use an idiom as tasteless as the treatment given to our artists, you my friends “are an island of reality in an ocean of diarrhoea.” Keep on keeping on.

In the next few weeks we will touch base with as many artists as we possibly can. Getting to know them a bit. Check out some of their work and just say ‘ey we appreciate you, we see you, we love you‘.

This week we are with Johannesburg based Mathews Tshuma.

Zululand Press (ZP): Who are you bro?

Mathews Tshuma (MT): I am Matthews Tshuma, a hybrid South African fine, interdisciplinary artist, born of a South African Xhosa mother and a Zimbabwean Khalanga father. I am currently based and work in Johannesburg.

ZP: What do you do and how do you do it, which mediums do you use?

MT: I am a fine, interdisciplinary artist which means I do traditional and new forms of art, drawing, painting, print making, installation, performance, street art and murals.

ZP: When and why did you start?

MT: My artistic journey started in Troyeville Primary School, where I was introduced to art and I naturally gravitated towards the challenge of trying to create something beautiful and meaningful with no knowledge it would be a life long journey, a career.

ZP: How has the experience been, please tell us about your milestones and struggles?

MT: The journey has been a roller-coaster ride from being an art student to being an art practitioner, the joys of having worked with renowned artists and just being a part of the arts fraternity is a milestone. As with any career there are multiple struggles but in the arts, it’s slightly harder as most people don’t consider art a profession and that makes it hard to get taken seriously by most industries and society . The arts are considered easy and cheap so the artist, creative never gets his full worth.

ZP: Are you able to live from this?

MT: Currently it’s a struggle as I have to stretch myself thin and wear multiple hats in order to stay afloat.

ZP: What inspires you? Does your work have a recurring theme and what is it?

MT: My work is influenced and inspired by African cultural nuances in the inner city of Johannesburg. My concepts are developed from observing human emotions, gestures, nostalgia, spirituality and migration using objects, animals and compositions as metaphors which is all found in my current body of work.

ZP: How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected you?

MT: The Covid-19 pandemic has affected me in a way that it will take a bit of time for me to get back to my normal life both professionally and in my personal capacity.

ZP: What does ”tenacity” mean to you, your life, your work and those around you?

MT: It means being persistent and not giving up on the journey to greatness and making sure you have a plan and sticking to it.

ZP: How do you see things panning out for everybody post the Covid-19 pandemic?

MT: This is a hard question to answer. What and when is post Covid-19 pandemic? Covid-19 is with us forever, so most things will be digital and there will be the mew norms of living. I frankly don’t know but we need lots of free or affordable counselling.

Check out some of Tshuma’s artworks:

To connect with Tshuma reach him on 064 604 5568 or like his Instagram page

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