Nobukho Nqaba

Nobukho Nqaba

South Africa, born in 1992

“Umaskhenkethe” is one of many terms in the Xhosa language spoken in Southern Africa to designate those Chinese-made plastic bags ubiquitous nowadays in low-income families. Meaning literally “traveller,” it has become a global symbol for migration, voluntary or involuntary, long-distance or local. For Nobukho Nqaba, born and bred during Apartheid, these bags remind her more especially of her mother, a key figure in her life and the mainstay of the family, who, whenever she visited relations on farms in Cape Province, would bring back bags just like these bulging with homemade sweets. For Nqaba, this mundane article offers a constant reminder of the past and of a childhood spent on the road locked in the daily struggle for a better future. Since on the road she has often had to pack away all she owns in such a bag, she has grown to see it as a kind of home. It is then only natural that Nqaba’s work involves the reconstruction, in studio, of an interior lined entirely with these “China bags,” among which she acts out her life in a new abode emblazoned with their instantly recognisable crisscross pattern.

Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, 2009 – 2013

Nobukho Nqaba, from the series Umaskhenkethe likhaya lam, 2012
Inkjet prints
30 x 20 cm
© Nobukho Nqaba

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