Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi South Africa

Cover Image - Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi

Growing up in New York while her father was in exile from South Africa, Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi was aware of her Blackness from an early age. But it was when she started studying in an arts program at Harvard that she fully understood the expectation placed on Black artists to create work solely based on their identity. In response to this, Thenjiwe’s early works would instead focus on architecture or environments, but in “Gymnasium”—which we featured on the site—she found a way to combine the two. The series not only deals with issues surrounding the Black body, but also the other things Thenjiwe is passionate about, like architecture and performance. The paintings use muted colors to show faceless gymnasts practicing and performing in bold, geometric spaces—showing there’s much more to the subjects and their painter than the color of their skin.