Nov 2023 1st Edition

Visual artist coins it in design competition

Written by Sihle Manda

Remember the name Themba Mkhangeli, 29, the next time you hold the freshly minted R2 coin, which he designed.

The Western Cape-based  Mkhangeli is among  designers responsible for the new circulation coin series released by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) in September.

The series features deep ecology as the overarching theme and is the first complete set of coins to be issued in the country’s democratic dispensation.

In 2019, Mkhangeli and a group of designers were invited to design the new coins by the South African Mint, a division of the SARB. He focused on his capabilities and gave it his best shot. To his delight, his R2 coin came out tops.

“I was surprised when I received that email telling me that my design had been approved. I was given two chances – to design the 50c coin and the R2 coin. I did both designs but they only accepted the R2 coin,” he explained. 

Mkhangeli thought  such opportunities were reserved for qualified artists and designers.

"For me, a person who doesn’t have a qualification, it was unbelievable,” he said.Design competition

The full-time visual artist is largely self-taught and mostly specialises in portraits. He only designs on client’s request.

“I learned the basics of art at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I had applied to study industrial design but I was accepted for the foundation course because I had not done art as a subject in high school. I passed all the practical subjects but failed in theory. I quit the course and focused on just drawing after being rejected for first-year industrial design,” he said.

The SARB’s focus on the coin series comes after the launch of the upgraded banknotes and coins on 3 May 2023.

In September, the SARB said the fourth decimal coin series has a contemporary appearance.

“The design elements offer valuable information about the country’s identity, including its culture, national symbols, history, languages, flora and fauna, cities and technology. New security features have also been added, making the coins difficult to replicate,” the SARB said.

The six-coin denominations and designers are:

  • 10c ‘Cape honey bee’ by Carl Jeppe;
  • 20c ‘bitter aloe’ by Zinhle Zulu;
  • 50c ‘Knysna turaco’ by Kotie Geldenhuys;
  • R1 ‘king protea’ by Lilian Guerra and Richard Stone;
  • R2 ‘springbok’ by Temba Mkhangeli;
  • R5 ‘southern right whale’ by Sujay Sanan.

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