A few words with Zana Masombuka, the Ndebele Superhero
by: Livhuwani Mukhondo - 15 October 2018
This creative director uses science fiction to co-create with the universe
Inspired by her small town rural upbringing at KwaNdebele, Siyabuswa, Zana Masombuka is creating artwork that speaks to Africa’s active role in globalisation.Through her work, this 23-year-old freelance creative director is interested in how African artists aim to pioneer the stories being written about their continent and its people, which is fundamental to the preservation of its heritage.
She graduated from Stellenbosch University with an International Studies degree in 2017. This is where she learnt the art of critical thinking, as well as the importance of globalisation and how it continues to impact Africa.
Zana’s first memorable experience with art was when she was 12 years old and had a school project where she had to select five medicinal plants to do research on. Instead of displaying her project on paper like other kids, she did a video with her Grandfather who was Herbalist, explaining what the function of the plants. She brought some of the herbs in class for everyone to see, touch and smell, scoring her the highest grade in the class.
From that moment, her love for art never stopped. Zana started exploring creative direction in her final year and worked on a few projects, one of which was a collaborative exhibition titled “Black (human) Zoo” which to black bodies in white spaces, inspired by the experience of being black bodies in the Western Cape. She has since worked on a motion film of fashion-directing a music video and has created content for social media platforms for small companies in Stellenbosch, Her brother’s initiation process that spread over 2 months and the energy at home inspired Zana to tell her people’s stories and it started with her taking images on her phone to now being exhibited in galleries like Mall of Africa’s Jullie Miller Investment Art Institute.
Zana’s works highlight the evolutionary process of Ndebele culture, and how it emulates human behavioural patterns, as well as various environments that influence its formulation.
Her latest piece, “Ndebele Superhero” is Influenced by Mazrui’s paper; “The Re-Invention of Africa: Edward Said, V.Y Mudimbe and Beyond”, which emphasises the need for Africans to interpret their history for themselves and seek to re-invent Africa in their own terms.
Ndebele Superhero is a platform that allows Zana to share stories of the past, present and the re-imagination of her people’s future. “I felt that as a Ndebele girl in the 21st century, the Ndebele nation did not have a youthful representation that speaks to our existence today,”says Zana when asked about her science fictional influence in the name Ndebele superhero.
Science fiction in its speculative form allows Zana to reimagine Ndebele people.
“As human beings, we draw from the past to make sense of the present, and try to imagine a different future for ourselves”, Zana emphasizes. The benefits of speculative science fiction are it’s boundless and not held by any specific rules. This is what the 23- year- old finds so fascinating about science fiction. “ Like folktale, it has a historical role in preserving the imaginative spirit of us as Africans”.
Being a 21st Century girl who is one with global culture, but identifies as Ndebele first, Zana is constantly aware of the changing nature of her culture and adapting to the needs of the people living at that specific space and time. She understands that this allows people to ask questions that have never been asked before.
“My work is about positive images of people like me. It is for acting anew and not living our whole lives in a reactionary state”. A Ndebele superhero is one made of us and for us. It seeks to break down perceptions of black science fiction and the authenticity of its portrayal.
What does the future of Ndebele heritage look like? “The future of Ndebele heritage looks like whatever we, as a people want it to look like. We create today, the future we want for ourselves and our heritage tomorrow”.Our Ndebele Superhero believes in a collective consciousness. She continues to be at work, co-creating our future into existence, with the universe.
You can follow her work to infinity and beyond on Instagram @ndebelesuperhero and on Twitter as @Being_Zana.Her latest artwork was featured at the Julie Miller Investment Art Institute Gallery in Mall of Africa,for the Spring collection titled Proudly South African:An exploration of Identity.