During July 2021, South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province experienced two weeks of devastating unrest, which saw shops looted, buildings burnt and people and communities affected by outbreaks of violence. One of the Nando’s restaurants that was worst hit was Nando’s Pinecrest in Pinetown.

As the Pinecrest Centre has been rebuilt, Nando’s Pinecrest has been repaired and restored, and celebrated its reopening on 15 September 2021.

Nkoali Nawa, one of the 2018 Nando’s Creative Exchange artists, was commissioned to supply an original charcoal artwork for the restaurant, as a symbol and memory of the difficulties and losses endured by the surrounding communities of KwaZulu-Natal during July 2021. 

The idea behind choosing a charcoal artwork is that beauty can rise from ashes, from Phoenix to Ulundi. The piece is titled Looting.

Nkoali has been part of the Nando’s Art Initiative for several years now and had taken part in the Creative Block and Chicken Run programmes managed by Spier Arts Trust before being selected for Nando’s Creative Exchange. 

Originally a mine worker, art was always his true passion, and Nkoali is understandably passionate about the daily struggles that face impoverished South Africans. He says it is important to him to show their lives to the world, to embody their lived experiences in his art.

It was very special to have Nkoali present at the reopening of Nando’s Pinecrest and the unveiling of his artwork.

Kirsty Niehaus, who heads up the Nando’s Art Initiative, says Nkoali is an example of how the initiative can assist artists in progressing their careers sustainably.

Like many artists, Nkoali struggled to make a career from his art. He even left art for a time to work in education, but says that Nando’s has given him a platform and the opportunity to come back into the art world, and to experiment with different art mediums, which is usually difficult when dealing with commercial galleries. “With each submission, I get positive feedbacks from the curator, which has resulted in huge development in my work,” he says.

As one of the four artists chosen for the 2018 Nando’s Creative Exchange exhibition, his work was shown at the Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival and at the AVA gallery in Cape Town.

Today, an incredible 225 of his artworks are held in the Nando’s Collection, of which 51 are in the Nando’s South Africa Collection and he has exhibited locally and abroad, both individually and as part of various group exhibitions.

Thank you, Nkoali, for joining us to celebrate the reopening of Nando’s Pinecrest, and for helping us to show that together we can rise from the ashes.