Born on May 25, 1979 in Lobamba, Swaziland, artist Sunshine Nxumalo was never introduced to the arts until later in life. She completed grades 1-12 at school in Lobamba. Upon finishing, she completed a diploma in Business Practice and a diploma in Secretarial Studies at WESCO College in Manzini, Swaziland.
While growing up, Sunshine always admired art at a distance, never believing that she herself had artistic potential. In retrospect, she says “I should have known that art is like anything else – if I try I can likely do it, if I cannot then I can always learn.” In 2006 Sunshine met Lucky Mlotsa, a visual artist who was first trained at Guava Art College (established by Aleta Armstrong) in Mantenga. When Lucky asked Sunshine if she was an artist, she promptly replied “No, but if I were to be, I would be a singer.” He encouraged her to try her hand at painting. She started with watercolor, and created five paintings that were quickly sold at Indingilizi Gallery in Mbabane. “I had never painted” she remembers, “but once I sold my first five paintings I never looked back.” She exhibited at several venues in Swaziland (Indingilizi Gallery, House on Fire, Guava Gallery and Café Lingo) before being officially represented by Yebo!. She is very pleased to be represented by Yebo! because, she explains, “It keeps me on my toes – I am given criticism and feedback that helps my painting improve constantly.”
After her initial success with watercolors, Sunshine bought oil paints and canvas – still today her preferred medium. Sunshine calls herself a landscape artist, as she is especially inspired by nature. She does, however, often depict people and animals as well. She is inspired by everyday life in Swaziland, taking real encounters, people, stories, and places, and combining them in her art. When painting, Sunshine creates images from her head, although she explains that one day she would like to try painting based off of a photo or a real landscape. When painting people, she invents personalities and life stories for them. She is often lead by the paint, letting it guide her hand and never remaining attached to the original plan she may have had. While much of her inspiration comes from imagined people and stories, Sunshine consistently paints the context she is in. “If I’m living up in the mountains, I find myself painting aerial views.”
Because of the nature of oil paints, Sunshine typically works on five paintings at a time, spending about four weeks to complete all of them. “I can’t just keep painting if I’m not inspired. So I work on one piece until the paint is wet and I’m no longer inspired, and then I move on to the next.”
Sunshine is by nature a cheerful and enthusiastic person. This clearly is reflected in her work by bright colors, lush landscapes, and vivacious people. Her style reflects that of her mentor, Lucky Mlotsa, although she has developed her own original way of using colors and perspective.
“If a person cannot talk – at least she can express herself through art. Talking can get you in trouble, painting cannot.” Sunshine uses art to depict the journey of lives. She explains how “There are always hidden agendas in paintings” and how she enjoys hearing the different interpretations of her work by all who see it. “Peoples’ lives, their histories and ancestries, are held in the land. That’s why I paint nature and landscapes – because they hold the stories, stories on canvas.”
The following pieces have been displayed on various exhibitions at Yebo! Contemporary Art Gallery since February, 2011.