Instabitions: The appeal of no gatekeepers on social media for young artists

A Johannesburg-based digital artist uses Instagram to exhibit work that speaks directly to censored voices, experiences and representation of black women.

Phindile Thengeni is a stylist, graphic designer and creative director who challenges what art is and what it can do. Realising the challenges artists go through to get their work showcased in galleries, Thengeni uses Instagram to exhibit her creations in “Instabitions”. Her work shows the beauty of black women, aiming to desexualise nudity and explore other avenues to display art and break stereotypes of what a black woman represents.

This young creative – who stands for positivity, inspiration and newness – started her first Instabition “doesitsuitme” in 2014 working with photographer Liam Lynch. She aimed at challenging the concept of masculinity by wearing men's clothes. Thengeni as a young pioneer has looked into different features centred on the black body and the human physique: presenting nude black women at their purest, and showcasing the beauty of pregnant women and homosexuals. She also explored topics of discomfort and shaming of dark skinned women in South Africa.

Phindile ThengeniPhindile Thengeni

“I continued with the name ‘DoesItSuitMe’ because it started the concept of creating art with a question. Does it suit me to pose pregnant, does it suits me to pose with flowers, does it suit me to beautify nudity? So with that question the audience gets to interact with my work”, she said.

Thengeni was recently featured on a project titled Mambokadzi as model and stylist. Mambokadzi is a digital project by Regina Kgatle, Simphiwe Cebo Xulu, Vuyi Chaza originally created for the Fakugesi digital festival. She then took the work, graphically interpretated and featured it on 'DoesItSuitMe'. The project explores femininity in gaming and plays with ideas of female empowerment, using playing cards (with their numbers and Queens) as a reference. The manipulated images are a progression from her previous work, and come as a preview of how she aims to reinvent her Instabition.

Phindile Thengeni

Phindile Thengeni

Thengeni is inspired by everyday people, her childhood memories, colour, music, magazines and the human body and mind. All these merge in her mind as ideas that aim to inspire young black girls.

One of Thengeni’s challenges as a young artist is the threat of her work being imitated by bigger resourceful mediums and not crediting her for the work she personally funds. Against such odds Thengeni hopes to create more interactive work, inspire and collaborate with other young female creatives, because she believes a united creative force is more powerful than one of an individual.