The 13th letter – A Manifestation of Self

Artist Statement

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.

About Phenyo 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. 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 in 2019.

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 pigment to illustrate that black women are naturally divine.