Born in Eshowe, Bongi Bengu left South Africa when her family went into political exile. Her schooling was in Switzerland and Swaziland. She obtained a BA in Fine Arts, Cum Laude from Mount Vernon College in Washington D.C. , and subsequently retuned to South Africa, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. She has exhibited widely and has been the recipient of a number of residencies abroad.
Bengu’s work has been described as social commentary about her life. In her early works Bengu worked mainly in collage, drawing upon images from popular media, playing with pervasive representations. In the later years Bengu has moved towards more subtle forms of expression. Her paintings have moved from the specific, more towards a form of expression where light, dark and texture have replaced the more literal expressions - a freedom where the narrative can be submerged and the essence can be explored.
The series called The Wheel are all inspired by my spiritual journey and daily meditations rooted in India. The symbols refer to "the chakras" or the energy centres of the body. Through regular meditation, one aligns these centres - thereby creating feelings of peace, harmony and bliss. Over the years, my work has been evolving in texture and depth, I have worked with soil, collage, painting and printmaking because my work is about layering different realities, histories, memories and emotions.
My recent output - the Imvuselo (re-birth /awakening) utilising leaves - and engagement with nature, preserving, questioning and re-interpreting the meaning of life and its organism, speaks of the process of decay and renewal (of life). This body of work reflects the contrast of dark and light, the powerful and disempowered, the paradoxes of life. It also echoes my experience of exile and homecoming.