Sometimes the University of Life offers an education that enriches life’s experience well beyond the humdrum of a textbook. A degree in living, that is what shapes art. Or is it the other way around? For artist Bonga Thunga, pictured, his lessons started 20 years ago and, he says, he is still taking in experiences every day and translating them to his work.
Thunga is a mall artist and his studio at the foot of an escalator in Eastgate. Thunga paints personalized portraits, interprets photographs on canvas and creates from his imagination. “Because I had no formal training in any particular style or method, I developed my own and works range from realism through to impressionism, and everything in between.”
Now based in Katlehong in Gauteng’s East Rand, Thunga’s story is really one of the universe pushing you towards your destiny and, finally, settling into the reality that fits like a glove. Art has always been his passion, his work not tainted by conformism or pigeonholing in any style.
“Growing up in Richards Bay, I started drawing pictures for primary school teachers,” he says. He graduated to drawing portraits and supplemented the family income throughout his school career. After matriculating, Thunga drifted between jobs for more than a decade. Sixteen months ago, he was retrenched from the last retail job he ever had. “I had to put food on the table and had no means to do so.”
Thunga headed to an art supply store and used his last bit of severance pay to tool up and turn his art into an enterprise.
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