Self-taught visual artist Cromwell Ngobeni uses charcoal to investigate the fallout of domestic and gender-based violence.
Cromwell Ngobeni from Giyani, Limpopo is known for his pursuit of monochromatic charcoal and pastel drawings. He began drawing at the young age of eight, inspired by his older brother’s sketches. In 2010, he moved to Johannesburg from Giyani to pursue his love of art. Since then, he trained and qualified for three years at the Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg as a print maker and subsequently interned as a gallery assistant for a year.
Cromwell belongs in the category of self-taught artists who honed their talents. Working as a print maker afforded him the right foundation, as he was exposed to different artists like Philemon Hlungwani and William Kentridge, while searching for his own artistic voice.
After years of work, Cromwell decided to create his own opportunities and opened his own studio, the Cromwell Ngobeni Art Studio in Kramerville, Johannesburg in 2021. Here, he will showcase not only his own art, but that of other artists too. This was also where he had his first solo exhibition in October 2021.
“My work investigates emotional reactions against domestic and gender-based violence, using charcoal, pastels and paint. I portray human figures on an open space to express different emotions that depend on the character of the image I want to bring out.
“According to my experience, I believe children emulate things that happen around them. I used the head of a dehorned rhinoceros attached to a writhing human body as a metaphor for people who have lost their voice trying to regain it. Rhinos are generally poached, abused and subsequently killed for their horns, which are valued as ornaments or traditional medicine in some cultures. Similarly, victims of gender-based violence often lose their dignity, belongings and lives due to the scourge of these social ills.
“These works also create awareness among people who play a part in any kind of violence whether it is gender-based, child abuse, xenophobia, poaching, etc. In addition, I use my work as a tool for breaking the cycle of how adults behave in front of children and how parents teach their children incorrect behaviours in the hope it will bring awareness and break the cycle of how perpetrators take advantage over victims.
“Moreover, I use drawings as an attempt to release lingering emotions resulting from the violence – mobilising within the elements of my drawings, tone and lines to psychologically break free from the sense, which often enslaves its causalities. Subsequently, I use monochromic charcoal with expressive lines, which would give contrast with strong tonal values, to depict happiness and intense emotional, dramatic and forced feelings.”
Cromwell Ngobeni Art Studio, 14 Kramer Road, Kramerville, Johannesburg firstname.lastname@example.org