Coffee artist Ennock Mlangeni's career soars as he prepares for solo exhibit in Belgium

15 November 2019 - 08:23 By Cebelihle Bhengu
The work of visual artist Ennock Mlangeni.
The work of visual artist Ennock Mlangeni.
Image: ennockmartZA via Twitter

Free State-based artist Ennock Mlangeni's career is taking off in a big way, as he prepares for his first-ever international art exhibition, which will be in Belgium in August 2020.

An excited Mlangeni told TimesLIVE that this big opportunity was launched by an act of kindness.

“I donated one of my art pieces to a charity for them to auction and make money, and the piece was bought by art collector Danny Weckx, who happens to own an art gallery in Belgium.”

Mlangeni was then invited to host a solo exhibition at the Uitstalling contemporary art gallery, where he plans to showcase about 20-25 pieces of his best work.

He hopes to start next year on a busy and productive note, by dedicating the months between December to April to making his masterpieces for the exhibition.

Known on social media as the “Coffee artist”, Mlangeni will use this medium [coffee] as well as paint and newspaper. “There will be so much preparation for this, as I need to be done by end April so that I'm ready for Belgium.”

Through social media, the 28-year-old artist has managed to make a name for himself, so much so that a coffee brand recently built him a new art studio in Sasolburg, Free State, where he will nurture new talent in his community.

Unlike many talented South Africans, Mlangeni has no desire to leave the Free State to pursue greener pastures in Johannesburg. He says his work is good enough for the city of gold to come find it in the Free State.

“Why not preserve art from where we are? Why move to Johannesburg? I already have people who travel from the city to see my work in Sasolburg, which is a good enough sign for me to stay. Instead of moving, I see myself expanding by building art academies all over the country.”

His genre may seem unusual for those who don't have the knack for art, but it inspires young artists who are under Mlangeni's mentorship. He says it's a misconception that young people neither understand nor find art interesting. Instead, they lack guidance, platforms to showcase their work and resources to create, he says. 

Mlangeni, like the youth in his community, did not have a platform such as a gallery in which to show off his work. Instead of letting this hinder his success, he turned to social media to get attention for his artworks.

“Social media has been my only platform and art gallery. I've never been represented by any gallery, so it has played a huge role in putting my work out there.”

Belgium may be at the top of his list of priorities, but Mlangeni also has a commitment to mentor the young artists in the recently-launched art studio.

He will juggle both roles until he departs for his exhibition in July.