“I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me, with my kind of skin and my kind of hair, was never considered to be beautiful” – a powerful statement from our very own beauty queen, the reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi.
Since her historic win at Tyler Perry Studios, Atlanta, Georgia, in December, Tunzi has since become the global natural beauty icon, inspiring millions with her beauty, confidence and wit.
Tunzi’s legacy is already rubbing off on many, including upcoming visual artist Patience Mmakolobe Phaka, whose artistic work is currently showcasing at the State Theatre.
Under the theme Don’t Be Beautiful, Phaka’s artwork embodies beauty beyond boundaries. A celebration of women who are breaking the mould of the beauty industry and owning their own uniqueness.
Reflecting on her work, Phaka, curator and director of the exhibition says: “I prefer calling myself a visual documenter because I see the world as my canvass to convey messages of human conditions or human experiences through my craft.”
Delving deeper into her chosen theme for this year, the young artist explains: “Don’t Be Beautiful is a visual representation of women not living by the status quo and just being authentically themselves, knowing that being yourself is enough, that they have nothing to prove to anybody.
Don’t be beautiful means being angry, being funny, being intelligent, being witty, being interesting, being adventurous, being crazy and being talented in your own way. It screams ‘Be your own definition of amazing’.”
She adds: “This is a celebration of women who defy the norms when it comes to beauty. These women define beauty in their own terms. And through my work, I honour these amazing women, like our current Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, who is the epitome of beauty.”
Tunzi, who forms part of Phaka’s body of work, refused to adhere to the world’s beauty standards when she opted to wear her hair short and natural instead, proudly representing diversity and uniqueness.
"Don’t Be Beautiful" is showing at The South African State Theatre, Pretoria. Picture: MPILO ZONDI
Elaborating on the inspiration behind this year’s theme, Phaka says: “Growing up, I used to be teased a lot about how I look. I’m a dark-skinned girl, and most of my friends were light-skinned, so boys would say that I’m ugly. They would call me names and make fun of my big nose and lips.
That used to hurt a lot, so I want to instil confidence, especially in young women, to ensure that they don’t go through similar experiences.”
On what she hopes the audiences will walk away with from this exhibition, the rising star says, she hopes her craft will “educate, heal, inspire, inform and transform how people view life”.
“I would like the audience, young women, in particular, to know that we are all beautiful in our own unique way. Whether you are curvy, dark or tall, there’s no need to change yourself for others.
“I want people to be confident with who they are.”
There are 13 pieces that Phaka is currently showcasing, quizzed about her favourite, she delightfully said “I have two favourites. My selfportrait, titled Woman in Harmony and Winnie Harlow's Precious Jewelry.
Woman in Harmony
Phaka says she’s delighted that most of her audiences so far are schoolchildren.
“I’m thrilled to see how young people’s faces light up when we do the walkabouts. Let’s be honest… a lot of black people think that art is
expensive and is only for the white folk, so to see young black people showing so much interest in art makes me very happy. Phaka wants to collaborate with some of her industry friends and colleagues to showcase their work in the townships and introduce more people to the world of art.
"Don’t Be Beautiful" is showing at The South African State Theatre, Pretoria. Entry is Free. The show ends on Sunday.