From schoolboy artist to international sculptor

Lungelo Gumede shows some of the statues he has completed in his Nelson Mandela Collection.

AS a young boy living in rural Ndwedwe, artist and sculptor Lungelo Gumede never reamed he would one day achieve success through his passion for art.

From a boy who loved to draw, Lungelo has grown as an artist, travelling abroad to exhibit his work as well as having his artworks featured in international superstar’s homes across the globe including Oprah Winfrey, John Legend, Forest Whittaker and Boxing World Champion, Floyd Mayweather.

“I started drawing as a boy. I was always busy when I was in class, when the teacher was standing at the chalkboard teaching, I was drawing her! I was even asked to draw text book diagrams on the board in class during biology. My school didn’t offer art as a subject, so I didn’t know what I was doing was art, I was just drawing,” he said.

When Lungelo finished matric, he moved to Durban to pursue his career in art. He lived with his mother in Clermont where an artist, Mandla Gasa, saw his drawings and encouraged him to go to the Bat Centre to develop his talent further.

“This was my first encounter with the Bat Centre. I approached them in 2002 and was told to put together a portfolio. I then enrolled in the Bat Centre Residency Programme in 2003 and did visual art for a year. I was voted the most outstanding student and was awarded a bursary to study fine art at DUT in 2004,” he said.

Lungelo Gumede hard at work in his studio to complete his Nelson Mandela Collection.

It was while studying his national diploma in fine art that he was introduced to ceramics and sculpting. This opened a whole new realm for him and he was introduced to different students and artists. After he completed his diploma in 2006 he started his own business, Lungelo Visual Arts and Design. He did paintings, portraits and a little sculpting, although at the time, sculpting did not command much of his time.

“I travelled to New York, Long Island, to host an exhibition and while I was there I visited Madame Tussauds. It was like wow! I realised this was something I wanted to do,” he said.

He returned home with a new vision, and set about making his first statue for the then Durban mayor, Obed Mlaba. In 2012 he presented King Goodwill Zwelithini with his own wax sculpture to commemorate his 40-year reign as king. His dream of establishing a wax museum was born.

“My passion is making wax statues. I make different statues as I saw at Madame Tussauds. I make local people, but as there are statues of Nelson Mandela all over the world I decided to include some international icons, such as Michael Jackson in my collection,” he said.

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Lungelo’s talent has taken him to some interesting destinations, including the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans in 2007 and 2008 where he was the only non-US artist exhibiting, which he said was very special for him. He also held a solo exhibition at the Exact Science Gallery in Hollywood, California, in 2015 where he exhibited paintings of US actors and personalities wearing traditional outfits, including Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. He has also been interviewed about his work on CNN and BBC News.

“I was also invited to Chicago to present my painting to Oprah, which was very exciting. I never would’ve thought I’d get opportunities like this!” he said.

Lungelo Gumede shows some of the statues he has completed in his Nelson Mandela Collection.

Lungelo has lots of plans in the pipeline and his work is now concentrated on creating 27 statues for his Nelson Mandela Collection.

“I have been busy all year making statues in celebration of Madiba’s 100th birthday. I have made 17 so far and have 10 to go. I exhibited these at the Eastern Bridal Fair and Lifestyle Expo at the weekend and it was an amazing platform to exhibit and speak about my work,” he said.

Lungelo said the biggest challenge he faces in making his dream of opening a wax museum in Durban a reality is the lack of sponsorship. He is currently based in a small studio at the Bat Centre where his work is stored.

“I know exactly what I want, but I need the space to create this and make this dream come true. My studio isn’t big enough to exhibit my work, and to continue my vision of opening a museum in Durban, which will also be a tourist attraction, requires financial muscle. As artists we are limited by resources,” he said.

Lungelo Gumede’s statues of local and international icons are displayed in his studio at the Bat Centre. He dreams of opening a museum in Durban.

 

 

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  AUTHOR
Lauren Walford
Journalist

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