Nicholas Hlobo's projects are frequently inspired by and titled with idioms from his native language, Xhosa —one of eleven national languages (along with Zulu and Afrikaans) of his post-Apartheid homeland.
The Xhosa language employs three basic click sounds, which are signaled by the letters "x," "q," and "c." Those who are not able to master the "x" click in "Xhosa" pronounce it as "co-suh" or "ho-suh."
In the Xhosa vocabulary, terms are often visually suggested or linked by colorful idioms and poetic turns of phrase. To have isandla esishushu (“a warm hand”), for example, is to be generous. In Xhosa, multiple meanings may slip between the literal and figurative. The language is loaded with double entendres which Hlobo uses to draw attention to things people are reluctant to discuss openly.
A Guide to the Titles of Nicholas Hlobo's Work for Momentum 11
Vula zibhuqe (Hlobo's installation) refers to those people who keep quiet and let others continue their wrongdoing even when they know the damage it will cause.
Umphanda ongazaliyo (sculpture) is a vessel that never fills up.
Iminxeba (large-scale drawing) translates as vines/ limbs of the vine. The word also refers to telephone lines or the telephone itself.
Uzifake zatshon' iinzipho (large-scale drawing) is a metaphor translating as, "he sank his nails deep into someone else's skin." This refers to people who take advantage of others' fortunes or kindness, or those who are manipulative and selfish.
Thoba, utsale umnxeba (performance) simply means to bow or kneel down and make a call. The word thoba means to reduce or lower something so that it's within reach. It relates to showing respect or being diplomatic. In Hlobo's performance, thoba is a command from a second or third person to calm down and listen, an urging to engage in a conversation with the "other worlds" outside and within oneself.