Siyabonga Mtshali.
Siyabonga Mtshali.
Image: Supplied

This month, Wanted dives into the lives, practice and ideology of  some of the most exciting young artists living or working in South Africa today.

Siyabonga Mtshali is a young designer, storyteller and entrepreneur hailing from KwaZulu-Natal. Mtshali is now based in Johannesburg where he pioneers contemporary African Avant-Garde fashion, tailoring and narratives through Siyababa Atelier, founded in 2019, and his photographic work.

The conceptual foundations of his multiple creative pursuits are concerned with the juxtaposition of fashion and art, and crafting and drawing inspiration from black, queer identities and the dialogues of the diaspora. Mtshali aims to disrupt the hold that Western media and heteronormative spaces have in defining nonbinary experiences, crafting a unique narrative of bisexual Zulu men; a representation that he himself has found lacking. His work focuses on aesthetics of identity, power and gender to subvert the status quo and portrays a unique perspective referencing the fashion industry and his own experiences.

What informs your photography?

My photography work allows me to re-evaluate my lived experiences. Challenging the masculinity embedded within my Zulu heritage through the queer eye. Coming to Johannesburg from KwaZulu-Natal, Richards Bay, I had to unlearn the order of what being a man is. Through my photography, I get to document my journey and redecorate what it means to be a bisexual Zulu man. [When I was] growing up, mainstream media provided limited representation, [portraying] characters that I could not personally relate to, restricting me as to whom I could become.

Siyabhebana I, 2022.
Siyabhebana I, 2022.
Image: Siyabonga Mtshali

My photography scripts a narrative a younger version of myself would have gravitated towards in hopes that other people can find themselves within it.

What themes and ideas does your work grapple with?

Finding the balance between sexuality, culture, and masculinity.

Please could you tell me about your upcoming work, exhibitions, projects and plans for the future?

My upcoming project [aims] to fully immerse my brand, Siyababa Atelier, into the world of art. I’m currently producing a wearable sculptural collection, which will be accompanied by other mediums such as music, photography, and videography. I believe this body of work will allow me to have a dialogue with my ancestors to guide me into the next chapter of life.

© Wanted 2024 - If you would like to reproduce this article please email us.