Studios: Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi | Johannesburg

13 - 29 May 2021
  • Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi writes: 


    'I generally have a morning practice. I wake up quite early and once I’ve seen to my child and done some of my morning rituals, I come into the studio and make tea and see where I want to start, what I want to pick up on for the morning. I try not to deal with any admin or anything computer related so that I can really access what sleep has given me – new ideas, new ways of seeing the work, new perspectives on whatever I did the day before. 


    A new approach that I’m taking is to incorporate being aware of my thoughts in the morning when I come in here, and to quieten them down a bit. I want to have a more intuitive reaction to what’s going on in the work, rather than to intellectualise it immediately. Sometimes you have to make something and then see what you made and reflect on it, decide if it needs to change, what modifications or rethinking it might need. But it’s important for me to not impede my intuitive voice because I have a very strong self-critical voice and something like a strong need for vigilance in my psyche. I’m now trying to access something closer to my core, a very gentle, tender space where this small voice resides, and I want to give it more room to speak and to be heard. Once it’s spoken, once I’ve allowed it to manifest in my work, then we can look at it. I don’t want to edit that voice before it’s had a chance to emerge.


    This new work builds on the Gymnasium series. The last images I made were about intimacy and interaction in a time when those things are challenging for us. There was a lot of tenderness in the work towards the end of last year, at a very difficult time for me and for a lot of South Africans. The weariness from Covid, and the weariness from all the violence that is happening in our own country and around the world towards Black people and in particular Black women … I wanted to make something to offer a respite, to offer some love in that moment, some nurture and compassion, a sense of support for myself and others. That work was very heartfelt and what I felt I wanted to offer at that time.'

  • Meet, 2021 Meet, 2021
  • 'Groupings of people, constellations of athletes – and maybe now they are moving beyond the gymnast realm – has become something I want to explore. How are we creating our individual identities within the groups that we belong to, or find belonging in? I’m thinking a lot about collective consciousness. So the new work is still about structures and relationships and relational space, and individual identity in the larger collective body of people. The images are becoming even more pared down. There’s a zooming in in terms of the figurative work, to examine these relationships,  but also a zooming out that’s happening in the more geometric, abstracted work. Those are about seeing the whole picture, surveying the landscape. There’s a progression in this new work towards the idea of always thinking about things from multiple perspectives. To rethink my perspective is something I always want to be capable of. I am quite literally changing the perspective or vantage point from which I am looking and seeing, and then making the work. I guess that’s symbolic of the multiplicity of ways in which we can perceive our experience or ourselves, and our position in the world in relation to others. To me there is something cool about the potential of paring things down visually, and at the same time becoming more nuanced conceptually.'

  • Arena, 2021 Arena, 2021
  • Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi was born in 1980 in New York. She was raised there, in Harare and Johannesburg, where she...

    Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi was born in 1980 in New York. She was raised there, in Harare and Johannesburg, where she now lives.


    Nkosi divides her time between studio work, performance and navigating the field of art as social practice. Her first solo exhibition, Gymnasium, took place at Stevenson, Johannesburg. Painting and video works by the artist feature in How to Make a Country,  a group exhibition at FRAC Poitou-Charentes that 'deciphers the fundamental criteria for constituting a nation’, opening 19 June. She has previously been included in Mixed Company at the Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa (2021);  FIVE, We Buy Gold, New York (2020); Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, (2020); That's What She Said, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg (2019) and  Lost Lover, Rampa, Porto, Portugal (2019).

  • Prices exclude shipping and taxes

    Photography: Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi; Nina Lieska