Durban based self-taught visual artist, Manelisi Nene’s pride for his rural community, is evident in his work. Almost all his works contain traces of where his umbilical cord was buried. He explores themes around black women, their bodies, in the context of culture and traditions in historical and contemporary times, and the importance of the role women play in his life. Through the use of acrylic paints, mixed media, and a vibrant colour palette, Nene’s work explores relationships, warmth and strength held by black people, particularly black women, the language, communities, culture, and significant moments of his childhood. In his repetitive symbolism, he uses fruits and flowers as a representation of his childhood. A reminder of all the types of fruits they would pick in the wild while herding the cattle in the rural Umbumbulu, Durban, KwaZulu- Natal.
In comparing and contrasting his earliest and latest works, you begin to notice the subtle, yet significant symbols and common themes in his work. His debut group exhibition was in June 2021, at an exhibition entitled RAW, at the KZNSA. His second group participation was the second edition of RAW at the BaMu Art Exhibition, Umbumbulu. His third group participation was at the BH Studio Gallery in Durban. Currently he is exhibiting at the Muholi Art Institute, IMIZUZU exhibition.
Sometimes art reflects the artist, and at times the core of the artist is worth more than the art itself. The latter could be compared to Nene’s character in the creation process, which is layered and in developmental stages. He possesses a significant understanding of language, culture, religion, and community. Eloquent in his use of words, he goes through a distinct process in the naming of his work. Using multimedia, Nene’s strength is in the narratives behind his work and his brush strokes.
In his repetitive symbolisms, he uses fruits and flowers as a representation of his childhood. A reminder of all types of fruit they would pick in the wild while herding the cattle. Also, representing the kindness and a natural warmth of most women around his life. There is a distinctive freedom in how Nene allows spectators to connect and define the impact of his work as they wish. The notion of finding comfort in the words of others is common with many artists. “I understand body language better”.