Having worked on a small collaboration together in 2017, Lunga Ntila and Natalie Paneng have been following the development of each other’s work, and we’re glad they decided to pool ideas and resources together again. Their latest project ‘Life Be A Drag’ highlights the similarities in their individual practices, while bringing a freshness that only collaborative conceptualization and execution can bring.
Their openness and understanding that working together is simultaneously a learning and creative experience allowed a fluid work flow to result in a solid body of work. The project was initially intended to consider Drag and African masks and how both speak to performativity. With a discomfort in exploring drag culture as outsiders, Natalie and Lunga decided to centre the work around the common thread between the two – performance. The project developed as they considered elements of performativity in everyday actions.
The images summon real life South African references in the viewers mind, and yet have a fantastical quality to their presentation. Exaggerated contour lines and the dramatic highlighting of facial features illuminate the initial inspiration for the project, with poses speaking directly to the performative moments in the mundane. “There is a visceral element in them [the images] as well as the fact that the images aim to reference. They express character, movement and colour. As South Africans and Africans at large, these things are not foreign to us. We used this project to depict both the culture and spirit of performativity through two womxn,” Natalie and Lunga explain.
When asked about how they would like their work to be viewed or engaged with, Natalie and Lunga highlighted the complications and difficulties around gaining access to art spaces as younger creators. “Initially the project was meant to be engaged within a gallery or physical space. We wanted the work to be tangible and viewed by a live audience. Due to the fact that it’s not that easy to gain access and support to spaces and platforms like that we had to resort to creating once again for the online space and seeing what kind of access that will bring us in the future with this project.” In this sense ‘Life Be A Drag’ has auxiliary entry points; speaking to the idea of online spaces as alternative avenues to share work as well as demonstrating the continued difficulties to access exhibition spaces for young artists.
Check out Natalie and Lunga’s Instagram accounts to see more of their work.
Makeup artist- Tammi Mbambo
Concept, Styling, Creative Direction, Photography, Editing and Characters: Lunga Ntila and Natalie Paneng