At Nando’s, we’ve got a saying: “It’s the people that make the chicken.” People are at the heart of everything we do, and our artist development programmes are no different. All our programmes are aimed at developing and showcasing local talent in a way that makes a difference in the world, including the Nando’s Creative Exchange.

Nando’s Creative Exchange was first established in 2011 to recognise emerging, South African fine artists who demonstrate exceptional ability.

We caught up with the four artists who were part of the 2019 Nando’s Creative Exchange exhibition that took place in December and January in Cape Town to find out a bit more about their work, inspiration and experiences.

Wonder Marthinus

A tragic accident ended Wonder Marthinus’s dance career. Withdrawn from the life he once knew, he was living on the slopes of Table Mountain when a chance meeting with an artist at a soup kitchen in 1995 set him on a new path to an art career.

Wonder’s art-making process involves the use of photographic material. He manipulates these images to such extent that they become entirely independent from the original source.

His paintings walk a tightrope between being representational and abstract, leaving the viewer with absolute freedom to interpret the work as they see fit.

“I work overall on a body of work,” he explains. “I start with what and how I see – an actuality, a structure, a shadow, a line. Then with the foresight of what I would do with the information I have gathered and stored in my mind, I go through a lengthy process of drawing up the ideas in thought, then on paper – lots of paper that I don’t keep. I draw the images until they are mine. Finally, I move onto painting. I have a general know-how of what my intent is, and so the layers of stages in the painting allow me to create a mapping-out of my mind. It’s almost like going on a walk: you start somewhere and then you arrive back from where you left differently.”

Wonder has a long relationship with Spier Arts Trust and Nando’s. In fact, he was one of the first people to join the Creative Block artist development programme. “The Creative Exchange programme allowed me to forget about my comforts, set a deadline and see a project unfold, which in the beginning was only an idea,” he says. “It took the whole Nando’s Creative Exchange team, the artists, our mentor and a lot of discussions and material to realise a product.”

Adolf Tega

Adolf Tega was born in Harare, Zimbabwe and moved to Cape Town in 2007. He is intrigued by the mundane and often-overlooked aspects of life. His work often depicts his fascination with the density of the faceless masses that he notices every day – some moving across borders in search of a better life and others commuting together, on their way to work.

Adolf says the theme of “home” was difficult for him, as a migrant. His family is originally from Mozambique, but has moved first to Zimbabwe and then to South Africa as economic migrants. “Home, for me, is wherever I lay my head,” he says.

He valued the constructive feedback he received working as a member of the Creative Exchange group, especially from people like Wonder, who has been working in the industry for more than 20 years and could share his wisdom and experiences.

“I got a lot of advice and I was inspired,” he says. “I didn’t want it to end! And what an honour to have my work hanging in one of the best galleries in Cape Town – AVA. It has been a great opportunity.”

Thembalethu Manqunyana

Thembalethu Manqunyana paints from the heart in a style he describes as ‘free form’. His work is strongly influenced by the Neo-expressionist Basquiat and Picasso’s Cubism period. He brings together a host of disparate traditions and practices to create a visual narrative and his vision is to create opportunities and provide support for artists in disadvantaged communities.

Thembalethu also started out contributing to the Spier Arts Trust’s Creative Block programme, and some of his artworks were purchased for the Nando’s Art Collection. “Whilst I was part of Gutsche Family Investment Art Gallery in Port Elizabeth, Hayley Grinstead and Robyn Sharwood encouraged me to apply for Creative Block and I applied with enthusiasm,” he recalls. “In 2019, I received an email from Spier Arts Trust with an invitation to apply for Creative Exchange. I submitted my application and was accepted into it.”

He found the experience valuable, saying, “It was a fulfilling experience to be part of a collective with a creative exchange of constructive feedback for growth. I would like to extend my gratitude to Spier Arts Trust and Nando’s for their support and platform they provide to emerging artists like myself.”

The exhibition theme was “Home”. Thembalethu says that, like a cup of coffee, the concept of home is one of love and comfort. “Bearing an everlasting warmth, it lays the soul to a point of stillness and peace,” he says. “Bringing everyone together in a strong connection of laughter and conversation, there is a certain power that comes about in people coming together in conversation. Across borders and binaries, spaces like restaurants and media exchanges thread together varying groups of people to create a homely embrace. At any place, one can build their own meaning of home and decide what that means to them.”

Robyn Pretorius

Born in Belhar, Cape Town artist Robyn Pretorius believes that we can build stronger connections by celebrating the diversity of human experience.

Robyn explores a painting process that combines both traditional form and storytelling through photorealist portraiture, conveying a celebration of identity and culture. Her aim is to evoke a more inclusive representation of South African people and the environmental influences that helped shape them.

Robyn has walked a journey to becoming a full-time artist and admits she didn’t always have the confidence in her talent. However, her work has been warmly received in South Africa and globally. After the opening of the 2019 Creative Exchange exhibition, Robyn was approached by Worldart Gallery to present her portfolio and discuss gallery representation. She also sold two of her artworks being exhibited.

“My art is inspired by the stories of people I’ve met or feel connected to, and the communities I relate to,” she says. “I want to communicate people’s stories and what makes us African.”

She also tells the stories of the Cape Flats, where she grew up, through her paintings. “Today, poverty, gang affiliated crimes, alcohol and drug use have crippled a once vibrant community,” she says. “Our marginalised communities are a result of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, which left our people psycho-socially displaced. It meant that the dissemination and access to resources such as art, education, work and social services, were organised according to racial and class lines that still exist today. My collection for Creative Exchange is aimed at breaking down stereotypes like violence, crime and abuse that are often associated with our communities. My main objective is to represent an authentic, unique culture that is filled with pride and excellence.”

Nando’s also had T-shirts printed featuring selected artworks from the Creative Exchange artists, which were sold at the exhibition and are now available from the Nando’s Loja (shop) at Nando’s Central Kitchen in Johannesburg.

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