Creativity @ Work is a monthly column written by Dave Mann, an editor and award-winning arts journalist.
‘Arriving in the Netherlands was shocking. Because I realised immediately, something I oddly enough had never experienced before: that I am African,’ explains multi-disciplinary artist and educator Heidi Sincuba in an interview on Africanah.org.
Sincuba was talking, then, about their time at art school in Arnhem – a small Dutch town located near the German border. It was also in Arnhem where the artist held their first solo show at Galerie De Buytensael, a small curio-centric African art space, and began the process of cementing a practice that is always responsive and context-specific, both physically and ideologically.
But we’re in the Eastern Cape now, in the small university town of Makhanda where Sincuba lectures students in painting at the Rhodes University Fine Art department. Sincuba’s just come out of a meeting and as we walk from lower campus to the university’s painting studios up the hill, we get to talking about the town itself, about Sincuba’s return to South Africa, and its impressions on their work.
‘You know, when I was in the Netherlands I was very aware of the mentality they have going over there which is that they’re the most tolerant country in the world,’ explains Sincuba. ‘They really view themselves to be so open and tolerant and advanced and progressive, but they don’t really know how to even be open to a critique from a person of colour or a queer person because those conversations just aren’t had over there. As South Africans, we’ve had a lot of those difficult conversations and we are much more aware of our bodies and how we view each other. We’re much more advanced in terms of our conversations of otherness. As tough and as problematic as those conversations may be, they are still being had over here.’
For Sincuba, who works across the mediums of painting, drawing, performance, text, and the internet, art is an ongoing conversation. Born in KwaZulu-Natal, the artist later moved to Cape Town, studying at the Michaelis School of Fine Art.
‘I did not do a fantastic job there,’ explains Sincuba, seated in an office space in the painting studios. ‘I was a pretty terrible student and a lot of it was stuff that I really think I couldn’t have avoided. I didn’t really grow up with art as a reality and I didn’t really have a structure of support or people who believed in what I was doing. There was a lot of financial stuff, a lot of social stuff – I just really struggled at Michaelis. I ended up dropping out in third year and that’s when I moved to finish my undergrad in the Netherlands.’
To continue reading about the interdisciplinary language of Heidi Sincuba, purchase the June 2019 issue of Creative Feel or, to continue supporting our role in the South African arts and culture sector, subscribe to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 to R365.00 per year!