Lunga Ntila uses a cut-and-paste aesthetic to add drama, spirituality and narrative to her work
The fine art photographer talks us through her process, one that involves collaging and creating stories fuelled by an exploration into her identity.
- Ayla Angelos
- 4 January 2021
Lunga Ntila is a child of the world. Initially from the South African city of Pretoria, she’d spent much of her youth in various nooks of the globe – mainly Munich, Johannesburg, as well as a few years spent in Cotonou and the Netherlands. “I think these cities definitely helped in broadening my understanding of people, culture and the different ways we can all exist simultaneously,” she tells It’s Nice That. And these experiences, of course, would have a profound influence on the work that she’d go on to create in the future.
As such, the fine art photographer centres her work on the art of deconstruction. Achieved through the craft of cut-and-paste, Lunga uses her medium to address themes of identity and narrative – an interest that sparked after learning the ropes of art history in her younger years, which was soon followed by the discovery of photography. Lunga cites the exposure to photographers such as Anthony Bila as a driving factor, especially for his series Street Etiquette, a black-and-white project navigating the Black History March which she came across on Tumblr. “I really saw myself doing the same thing,” she says, serving as a catalyst for purchasing her very first camera – the same device that she uses today.
Now working in the field of self-portraiture and fashion photography, Lunga’s work is ingenious just as much as it is symbolic of a craft well nurtured. Tumblr played a key part in the making of her DIY aesthetic, not just in the sense of determining her own visual language, but also for the ways in which she witnessed people use their cameras and publish their works on the platform. “My initial introduction to art was really centred on painting and drawing,” she adds, “I wasn’t aware that photography could be considered an art form.” So much so that what first attracted her to the medium was its ability to freely – not to mention immediately – translate exactly what was running through her mind.
As for the more stylistic side of things, Lunga’s practice is one that very much revolves around layering. Her process employs the act of “borrowing”, which involves pulling similar themes or elements from outside sources and compiling them into a bigger picture. “There is a lot of repetition,” she says. “My intention is to strip the traditional representation to create a new representation of something.” In doing so, Lunga lenses themes of identity, spirituality and mythology. So much so that she believes these themes all come hand-in-hand and are part of the same ecosystem. “The closer you are to who you are and yourself is the best experience you can get of God, Source and The Universe. Of course all of this is subject to change.”
Putting thought into practice, Lunga’s recent commission with Anyways Creative for a project with Sonos rings true to this considered and spiritual practice of hers. Tasked to share her own experiences with sound – that being “anything from music, a podcast to a story your mother once shared with you” – the result of which is an exploration into her personal relationship with it. “When I thought about what sound is to me, I realised that it’s the ‘passing of legacy’,” she says, thus creating an artwork encompassing each and every experience of her own on the matter.
Her collaging technique was an apt choice for the brief, particularly for the ways in which she seamlessly melds her past and present experiences with sound. Visually, the artwork was inspired by this amalgamation of things – specifically the multitude of perspectives that make sound, as well as that which forms a memory or experience. “The fluid shapes of the cut-outs play homage to leopards which is one of the ‘Ngconde’ clan totems,” she adds, noting how the images have been pulled from both childhood and adult memories.
Elsewhere, Lunga’s project for Victoria Beckham took an exciting spin back to her days of working in fashion. Invited to create social media content for the Victoria Beckham channel, Lunga pulled inspiration from her latest PAW2020 collection. The outcome resulted in a bold, trippy, chequered interpretation of the designer’s clothing line, where the models are cut out and placed onto a plain white background and decorated with motifs of fire and roses. Not to mention a red marker pen that outlines the silhouettes, only adding to the image’s extremity. This, like many of her other pieces, solidifies Lunga’s process as one that effortlessly adds drama to any image.
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.