Feni Chulumanco was born in Cape Town and moved with his family to Langa Township at a young age. Whilst studying at Isilimela Comprehensive High School he met Miss Nkunzi, the Art, Culture, and Design teacher who encouraged him to pursue his evident skill and passion for the arts. In 2014 Chulumanco met the artist Ayanda Mabulu at Greatmore Studios. This significant encounter led to him being mentored by Mabulu as well as interacting with a wide variety of established artists at Greatmore.
To reproduce and re-story his lived experience, compelling faceless solitary figures are always painted against a background of textiles and notably saturated colors, such as mustard walls from memories of his late grandmother's home. Chulumanco notes that these figures are self-portraits as well as recreations of his brother and himself at home. Rugs and textile remnants are commonly incorporated in his paintings, which he attributes to the door-to-door salesperson, whom his mother was always easily convinced to buy from because of her love of rugs. Having spent a significant amount of time studying and playing on them, the textures are quite familiar and constant - themes that appear throughout his work.
He paints his figures without faces because, while they are inspired in part by West African masks, they also represent Chulumanco's own experience. In his pursuit of being an artist, he faced rejection from his community, and he recalls feelings of voicelessness and invisibility. Chulumanco's work is never static because his figures are always in motion - they represent the discipline he values through the chores assigned to his brother and his mother. He discloses that his dreams still link him to messages from his forefathers, including his late and beloved grandmother. She once told him that becoming an artist was the finest decision he could make.
He invariably returns to personal development and introspection. By encasing some of his figures in glass boxes, he references the individualism, personal growth, and the secure environment he created for himself through self-isolation to follow his calling. His emphasis is on self-esteem, individualism, and fulfillment, but it is also a tribute to the caregivers and feminine forces who nurtured, nourished, and believed in him, as he permeates his art with maternal warmth.
- Sara Khan