Born in Eshowe, Bongi Bengu left South Africa when her family went into political exile. Her schooling was in Switzerland and Swaziland. She obtained a BA in Fine Arts, Cum Laude from Mount Vernon College in Washington D.C. , and subsequently retuned to South Africa, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. She has exhibited widely and has been the recipient of a number of residencies abroad.
Bengu’s work has been described as social commentary about her life. In her early works Bengu worked mainly in collage, drawing upon images from popular media, playing with pervasive representations. In the later years Bengu has moved towards more subtle forms of expression. Her paintings have moved from the specific, more towards a form of expression where light, dark and texture have replaced the more literal expressions - a freedom where the narrative can be submerged and the essence can be explored.
The series called The Wheel are all inspired by my spiritual journey and daily meditations rooted in India. The symbols refer to "the chakras" or the energy centres of the body. Through regular meditation, one aligns these centres - thereby creating feelings of peace, harmony and bliss. Over the years, my work has been evolving in texture and depth, I have worked with soil, collage, painting and printmaking because my work is about layering different realities, histories, memories and emotions.
My recent output - the Imvuselo (re-birth /awakening) utilising leaves - and engagement with nature, preserving, questioning and re-interpreting the meaning of life and its organism, speaks of the process of decay and renewal (of life). This body of work reflects the contrast of dark and light, the powerful and disempowered, the paradoxes of life. It also echoes my experience of exile and homecoming.
BONGI BENGU: CV
· 1975-1977: Khandisa Primary School, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. Grade 1-Grade 2
· 1978-1987: International School of Geneva, Switzerland. Grade 3-Grade 11
· 1987-1989: Waterford Kamhlaba, United World College Of Southern Africa, Mbabane, Swaziland. International Baccalaureate
· 1989-1993: Mount Vernon College, Washington DC, USA, Bachelor of Arts, Cum, Laude. Major: Fine Art
· 1994-1997: University of Cape Town, South Africa. MFA- Power Gained-Power Lost: Aspects of Contemporary African Woman Visualised
· 1997: Standard Bank Award: Trainee Curator at the National Gallery, Cape Town
· 1996 – 1997: University of Cape Town Maclver Scholarship – Award to promising postgraduate women students in Michealis School of Fine Art
· 1996 – 1997: University of Cape Town CSD Scholarship
· 1995 – 1997: University of Cape Town A W Mellon
· 1992: National Museum of African Art Certificate of Recognition Washington DC
· 1993: Mount Vernon College - Alphi Chi National Honour Society Award
· 1993: Mount Vernon College - Arts and Humanities Award
· 1993: Mount Vernon College - Fine Arts Award
· 1993-1994: Who’s who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges
· 1992-1993: Mount Vernon College - Merit Award
· 1987: International School of Geneva-French
· 2013: Welcome to Bongism, Solo Exhibition, Art Afrique Gallery, Sandton, Johannesburg
· 2008: Emancipation, Solo Exhibition, Constitutional Hill, Johannesburg
· 2007: B2B, Solo Show, Westcliff, Johannesuburg.
· 2004: Woman, Solo show, Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town
· 2003: Woman, Solo show, The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg
· 2003: Faces, Solo show, Dat Hoghehus, Germany
· 1998: Solo Exhibition, Spier Contemporary, Cape Town
· 1997: Solo Exhibition, Association of Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery, Cape Town
· 2018: Ways of Seeing and Beeing Seen,Johannesburg
· 2018: Harlerm Arts festival, New York
· 2015: SA Art 21 Years after Democracy, Durban Art Gallery
· 2015: Identity-Cohesion,Grahamstown Arts Festival
· 2015: Portretteer, Oude Libertas Gallery, Stellenbosch
· 2014: Harlem Arts Festival,Chicago,USA
· 2014: Sanaa Arts Festival,Johannesburg
· 2014: Eshowe Heritage Arts Festival,KZN
· 2013: Inkunzi Emanxeba: The legacy continues…, touring exhibition, Durban, Polokwane, Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Eastern Cape and Johannesburg
· 2012: 21BF, a 21st retrospective exhibition, The Bag Factory Studios, Johannesburg
· 2011: My Selection, Group exhibition, Artspace, Johannesburg
· 2010: Friends, Stuttgart, Germany
· 2009: Babette’s Feast, Artspace, Johannesburg
· 2009: Innovative Women, touring exhibition, Constitutional Hill, Jeannette Unite Studio, Kizo Gallery
· 2009: Sharing/Shared, Alliance Francaise, Johannesburg
· 2008: Heptad, Artspace, Johannesburg
· 2008: Visions, Kizo Gallery, Durban
· 2007: Possibilities, Mumbai, India.
· 2005: World beyond Words: A Visual Arts Platform of Contemporary Women’s Art in South Africa, Centre for African Studies Gallery, University of Cape Town
· 2004: A Decade of Democracy: Witnessing South African Art, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
· 2004: Group show, Identity, Fortis Circus Theatre, Scheveningen, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
· 2004: Ten Years of Freedom: Contemporary South African Art, Yac Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
· 2003: Group show, Artspace, Johannesburg
· 2003: Dreams for our Daughters, The Klein Karoo Arts Festival (KKNK), Oudtshoorn, Western Cape
· 2003: Crossing-Knotting, Berlin, Germany
· 2002: 10/10, The Bag Factory Studios, Johannesburg
· 2001: The Big Bag Show, The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg
· 2001: La Hijas de la Terre, Tenerife, Canary Islands
· 2001: Viewline, Solothurn, Switzerland
· 2000: The Hourglass Project, A Woman’s Vision, Atlanta, USA.
· 2000: Cross cultural currents, Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg
· 2000: Rivers of Spirit: Art Women in the African Diaspora, University of Illinois, USA.
· 2000: Jak South African Art and Design, London
· 1999: Group Exhibition, Association of Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery, Cape Town
· 1998 – 1999: South African Aesthetics, Travelling Exhibition, USA.
· 1998: Family Ties, Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg
· 1997: La Boheme: Noir, Primart Gallery, Cape Town
· 1997: Survivors in Search of a Voice: Art Exhibition, Johannesburg
· 1997: South African Landscapes, Primart Gallery, Cape Town
· 1996: Cognisance: The Creative Cape, Association of Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery, Cape Town
· 2006: Landscape International Workshop, Ngong forest, Kenya.
· 2005: International Workshop, Zambia.
· 2004: Sansa International Workshop, Kumasi, Ghana
· 2001: AltesSpital, Solothurn Switzerland
· 2000: National Black Arts Festival, Atlanta, USA
· 2000: Gasworks, London
· 1998: Printmaking Workshop in London with Master - Printer Jack Sheriff
· 1998: Montana Artist’s Refuge, Montana USA
PRESENTATIONS AND OTHER ACTIVITIES
· 2013-2014: Bambatha Steering Commette member,DAC
· 2006: Trustee Arts & Culture Trust.
· 2003: Board member of Unisa Art Gallery.
· 2002: University of Cape Town, Cape Town
· 2000: School of Oriental and African Studies, London
· 2000: London Print Studio, London
· MTN, Johannesburg
· Billiton B.H.P., Johannesburg
· De Beers, Johannesburg
· Rand Water, Johannesburg
· Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg
· Florida A & M University, Tallahassee, USA
· Musée De la Civilisation, Québec, Canada
· Department of Arts & Culture, Pretoria
· The Spier, Stellenbosch
· SABC, Johannesburg
· Rand Merchant Bank, Johannesburg
· UCT, Cape Town
· Canton of Solothurn Government Offices, Switzerland
· Nandos Art Collention, London
· Van Den Ende Collection, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
· South African High Commission, Maseru, Lesotho