Conceptual performance artists and siblings Manthe (29), Tebogo (28) and Kokona Ribane (24) have been exposed to creativity all their lives and made careers of it in the last decade.
Their most memorable early performance was at the FNB Stadium when they were among the children who danced for Nelson Mandela on his birthday — a gig facilitated by their parents after seeing their children’s early interests in performing. Their mother was a school teacher with a love for dancing, their father was a big name in the sports world and their aunt was beauty queen turned actress Nakedi Ribane.
“We grew up in a very artistic family. Our parents always encouraged us to follow our dreams and find out why we’re passionate about art. They also believed in us. They encouraged us to go for art classes, or activities outside the classroom,” says Manthe.
The siblings unexpectedly lost their parents not too long after their introduction to the arts, resulting in them being divided to live with different relatives.
“We had to live with different relatives and even though the family support was great, we needed each other. Eventually, when my brother completed his matric, we lived together in Roodepoort and we used that home space as a studio because we’re all passionate about art — and creating an idea and seeing it come alive.”
In 2015 they formed Dear Ribane as a way to communicate their encounters with each other, their parents and followers of their works — fusing graphic design, dance, music, and performance and drawing attention from local and international collaborators. They have exhibited internationally and worked on global campaigns with fashion houses such as Kenzo and Chanel as well as i-D magazine, Nike and Red Bull
Work and effect
Dear Ribane pride themselves in making their work align with their conviction of walking in cosmic spirituality instead of creating and consuming in secular unawareness.
“We see spirituality as a form of self-respect. So just by how someone dresses themselves and how they present themselves, you can already tell so much about how people create and what they create. That’s why it’s important to keep in touch with that spiritual side, because someone else is looking up to you, like, ‘Yo, be my healer today, say something that will spark my life’ and that’s why we’re not taking this for granted. It’s serious. This is serious. This is our life.”
Their fluidity and seamless movement between artistic mediums makes enclosing them into a single realm of art.
They do not view themselves as an entity with limits, rather their innovation and reach is viewed as they view the cosmos — infinite. Their work is an act of constantly questioning how far they can reach, who they can reach and why they can reach.
“The way we understand the being does not stop here. We open people up to an altered state of mind. We capture the impossible as possible,” says Manthe.
Their objective is to create work that treks new paths, standards and schools of thought in the artistic realm.
Although they have different talents, they are able to coalesce because their mutual past gives them what the eldest Ribane describes as a beautiful synergy that allows them to package their art as a unit.
In January, Dear Ribane debuted Humanoids Transcending Cosmic Frequency at the South African Style Awards. In the piece we see Manthe, Tebogo and Kokona as peaceful entities that are part android, part alien, part human. The humanoids explore the earthly platform that they occupy with an awareness that not only goes beyond the Earth but beyond the cosmos. This was recently followed by the Humanoids subjects being nominated for most beautiful Object in South Africa.
Dear Ribane is working to provide a public space where anyone can focus on their dreams and escape the negative everyday aspects. They want to create a space where innovation overflows because boundaries of logic do not bind the mind — a space where new skills can be created with new materials, a space where all are welcome to teach and learn.
“I don’t want to say a lot because as it is things are scattered. People are approaching us, which is good. You can expect a lot but it will be more refined and more meaningful projects in the form of art exhibitions and performance art. I think that’s where you’ll be seeing a lot of Dear Ribane. But in our everyday, it’s prayer, staying healthy, staying grounded and keeping to our focal point.”