IN: Inspiration

Q&A with Phumulani Ntuli

Multi-disciplinary artist Phumulani Ntuli won the category prize for Film at the 2018 PPC Imaginarium Awards.


  • Tell us about yourself. Where are you based and what projects/undertakings are you involved in currently?

I am a multi-disciplinary artist who works with new media, films, performance and installations. I am currently based in Johannesburg, working at the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, and I have been based there for the past six months. I have established a collective called Pre-empt Group, which works within the confines of workshops, essays, performance and experimental films.


  • At what point did you become interested in film? What sparked the desire to enter a creative field?

To a large extent, the engine that guides my work includes documentary practices, text, image and sound. And since these considerations within performance practices are prevalent, for me filmmaking became a process of documentation and, secondary to that, storytelling is a format that reaches out to different audiences. I became fascinated by this possibility during my studies in Switzerland. I stayed with a small group of people with diverse artistic practices. We collaborated a lot, as it was part of our daily occupations – sharing knowledge and ideas. This swayed me to attend to experimental processes and, since film/videography involves versatile practices, it occurred to me to push towards film making/moving images and to forge possibilities for collaboration.

I believe film has the potential to enhance artistic practices, mainly because we have been exposed to stream content, and other film formats are still lagging behind in the context of South Africa. And normally the treatment of experimental films is not well-received, since the enculturation of this sub-sub-genre is a little alien to a lot of audiences – it exists only within an artistic framework. So it was interesting to give it a chance and to realise some of my ideas by looking at oral histories, archives and non-linear narratives within a film apparatus.


  • Do you have any formal training and/or qualifications? If so, from where?

I studied at the University of Johannesburg and graduated with a BTech Fine Arts in 2011. Thereafter I did a couple of programs, such as the Thupelo Workshop, which partly spearheaded my career. During that time I was also planning to travel to Europe, and I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to study in a Master of Fine Arts programme in Switzerland.


  • Who and/or what inspires you as a creative?

I am inspired mainly by history/historicity as this is a window through which we pave ways of thinking about the future/futurity, allowing us to process the conditions of current socio-political realities within different geographies. I am entrenched in the idea of the diaspora and collectivity. I am reading and following the work of the Otolith Group, the Black Audio Film Collective and the Sankofa Film and Video Collective. These filmmakers expanded the notion of the documentary/fiction tradition as a way of writing with a lens. I am also absorbed by the idea of the everyday and improvised spaces.


  • What is your opinion of the arts and design industries in South Africa?

There is some critical attention that needs to be paid in relation to exploring other formats, as well as exhibiting/presenting and preserving, since South Africa is locked in an enclave that needs some critical intervention in terms of content. There is certainly a lot of progress being made currently for commercial artistic enterprises or vocations, and an influx of artists who take ownership of their craft, dictating the means of production and spaces of reception – which is very positive. But possibilities for collaboration should also be explored more at a very micro level in spaces that do not have resources to realise some ideas.


  • As a creative, what part of the PPC Imaginarium Awards did you find the most rewarding/fulfilling?

The awards are certainly enhancing. I saw my ideas changing between the first draft and the final film, and there are so many trajectories that occurred in between the draft and the final film. I was open and embraced the changes, through conversations with collaborators and feedback from friends. I believe the awards provide a space to realise alternative practices, and so I am happy that an integrated approach is possible within the PPC Imaginarium Awards, with categories such as film, jewellery and industrial design.


  • What role can a platform like the PPC Imaginarium Awards play among upcoming creatives in your industry?

The categorisations are important for streamlining artistic voices. I believe it is the right time to incorporate other time-based media, such as performance. The awards can also enhance marginalised practices and reinstitute them into the awards. I believe this can offer a mutual dialogue between the institutions, spaces, audience and the artists.


  • What are your plans for the future?

I am working on a new film project that investigates the notion of post-lens media between South Africa and Belgium, and later this year I have a research residency in Kinshasa, DRC, which will be a component for my film. I am using these channels to exchange, network and reach out to new audiences. The project is currently in the research phase and I am collecting data, searching for new collaborations. I am also working on a solo exhibition for 2019.

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