Nonkululeko Sibeko taking SA to great heights through art


Nonkululeko Perturnia Sibeko came face to face with art at the age of 9 years and she was completely oblivious to her talent. “I would paint and sketch objects and people, sometimes I would sketch my teachers while teaching in class but was not aware that I’m creating art” Nonkululeko recalls.

Her family was supportive and her late father established a one of a kind art gallery in Soweto. Nonkululeko also known as Nkuly was largely inspired and mentored by her father who helped her to find a suitable style.

Nonkululeko Sibeko grew up in Soweto, Pimville. She describes herself while growing up as an introvert. “I loved my own space and I didn’t have friends. I felt that I understood myself better when I was alone”.

Her family has always been supportive of her career choice along with her teachers who guided her into her chosen path. “Whenever my teachers would see my drawings they would encourage me because they saw what was brewing so deep inside of me” she expresses.

Nkuly displayed signs of excellence in art at a young age and her environment nurtured her into a fine contemporary artist that she is today. Her father established an art gallery in Nonkululeko’s early years in the heart of Soweto. Even though her father was laid to rest in 2013 Nkuly keeps the legacy alive.

The art gallery allowed Sibeko to work with renowned artist such as David Mbele, Solomon Skhawulela, Blessing Ngobeni, Godfrey Ndaba and many more. With the gallery being one of a few if not the only one back in the days in Soweto it soon became the center for black artists and what became known as Soweto Art School.

“What I liked about my father is that he never turned away an artist even when he didn’t like their work” she says. Nkuly shares nostalgic moments; “my father believed in them whole heartedly and believed someone in the world will appreciate their work”.

Nonkululeko is a Boston college graduate in Business Management and obtained her qualification in 2012. In 2019 she won the Residency Award from Soweto Fine Art Gallery. Sibeko’s art addresses social issues such as gender based violence and cancer. She tackles these issues by putting a red ribbon in her art work.

“My art is visual therefore I tend to visualize and use color and mix media. It’s a creative process and I don’t stick to one particular style” says Nkuly. Sibeko’s craft has allowed her to connect to her spirituality. She taps into her spirituality when she expresses herself through art. She also explains the importance of capturing your audience through art and ensuring that they understand the artists creative thought process when viewing the art.

“My contemporary art is different because I use colours and it works for me because I’m a colourful myself” she adds.

“The public has responded well to my art” she says. As an award winning black female artist, Sibeko believes that she is headed to a great start in influencing SA positively. She is concerned when she says “it’s a norm for the male gender to win awards as they are better recognized than female artists and fine art is popular in South Africa when compared to contemporary art”. However she is eager to change the narrative in the art space. Nkuly is excited that she gets to be a trend setter for SA as she breaks new grounds. “I’m taking SA to new levels where they will eventually understand different ways of art” she expresses.

Sibeko struggles with the notion that her work is often questioned because of her gender and not so much her talent but nonetheless she is embarking on putting her work out to the world. She has been exhibiting and her art has gone from SA all the way to Switzerland.

Nkuly feels that she has not reached her pinnacle of influence even though she has a good social media following. “God is paving a way for me to teach children about abuse from families. “I want to show the world that I am a modern artist who is a Mbokodo (Rock).

Nonkululeko Sibeko says: “It’s been a journey as a female artist and my advice to women is that you don’t need to do sexual favours for anyone in order to achieve your goals. She concludes by saying God and his angels are opening doors to help us in our path therefore never stop pushing forward”.

By Sandra Lesenyeho