Winner of 2019 BNAP: Phenyo Melody Madiba

Mel Madiba
3rd Jun 2019. by

The Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize is a residency that aims at supporting a young emerging artist in South Africa. The project started in 2017, the artist Blessing Ngobeni sponsored a studio award for a young artist to take a residency at his studio in Bag factory. This year the Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize has offered the artist three months residency at  Victoria Yards, a materials fund, a three months stipend and a show at Everard Read gallery. 

We are happy to announce that the 2019 winner is Phenyo Melody Madiba, better known as ‘Mel Madiba’, is a 25 year old multifaceted creative. As a child, Mel found pleasure in drawing – especially on the walls of her home. This recreational activity soon flared into a passionate hobby, which her mother steered to paper, canvas and art classes. When she finished High School, having taken Design as a subject, she went on to study Interior Design at the Design School of Southern Africa. She fell in love with wood and it easily became her favourite material, and soon discovered pyrography and never looked back. She has been part of various group exhibitions and is part of the Design Indaba Emerging Creatives 2019.

These are some artworks by Mel Madiba…


Phenyo Melody Madiba was born in October 1993, in Mafikeng and grew up in Pretoria. She now lives and works intermittently between Pretoria and Johannesburg. When she finished High School, having taken Design as a subject, she went to study Interior Design at The Design School of Southern Africa. It was there where she fell in love with wood and discovered pyrography, which is the art of drawing on wood, leather or other materials using a soldering iron. it is through this art form that she began creating works that seek to explore various aspects of who she is. Madiba taps into the inner workings of her mind to conceive work that is rooted in femininity, consciousness and the full expression of oneself.

Putting emphasis on balance – the duality in human experiences – she portrays an array of emotions from a black woman’s lens. Her chosen subject matter is predominantly black women at different stages of their growth. She envisions a world where black beauty can be fully expressed and appreciated without the need for it to be substantiated

The artist uses expressive markings by fire, gold and African bronze blue to illustrate that black women are naturally divine. She has been influenced by artists like Zanele Muholi, Lina Iris Viktor, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and Donald Nxumalo by their creative approaches in their respective practices.

Her career officially launched in 2019 after being dubbed a Design Indaba Emerging Creative, appearing on the TV show Hashtags Africa, and winning the Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize. Madiba’s work has evolved through personal experiences and she strives to improve her craft and become a reputable artist in the world and is open to using pyrography in an abstract manner in the future.


Artist Statement

The 13th letter – A Manifestation of Self

When I started pyrography in 2015, I gravitated towards images of women I found relatable. I chose images of women whose facial and emotive attributes spoke to me. The feelings evoked by the images were more than a mere double-tap, I felt a connection to them that seeped into my craft. They became symbolic representations of the emotions I had within. This year, I became my own muse. I interrogated my views and convictions about my femininity, choices and the way I navigate through life as a black woman. The heart of this series was inspired by Astro-numerology –which is the study of the numerical value of the letters in words, names and ideas associated alongside astrology and the belief of their divine relationships. Therefore, the letter M is significant to me for many reasons, from something as simplistic as my initials to the deeper narrative it holds within the divine feminine. As the 13th letter, ‘M’ signifies the 13 lunar cycles which could also be a representation of the average menstrual cycles in a year. It also symbolises the origins of life: water – where life in its various forms is born. It speaks to the motherly nature of all things sacred. The letter M is shaped like a mountain, firm in its foundation, making a great impact and reaching new heights – which I ultimately aim to do with my work.




2012 – 2014      Bachelor of Arts, in Interior Design,

Design School Of Southern Africa (now under Vega)
2009 – 2011      Willowridge High School



2019     Africa Alive!, Paris, France.

2019     Design Indaba Emerging Creatives, Cape Town.

2018     Julie Miller Winter Art Collective, Mall of Africa, Johannesburg.

Stylin’ Dreads #CreativeConquerors Showcase, Johannesburg.

Coiled Crew – Kinky BeBOLD,  Johannesburg.

2016     J&B Hive – Johannesburg.



2019     Design Indaba Emerging Creatives, Cape Town.



2019     Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize

2019     Design Indaba Emerging Creative

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