Johannesburg-based illustrator and multimedia artist Seth Pimentel aka African Ginger on what music means to him, the principles of balance in design and Africa as a creative force.
Where does your love for art stem from and how did you get into illustrating?
I started drawing at a very young age. I was an indoors kid so I found myself drawing and experimenting with mediums more than interacting with people. I found out about illustration during my first year of university at The Open Window Institute.
Instagram is the main digital platform where you showcase your art. How does social media affect your mental health and how does that translate into your artwork?
I hate myself. Social media just heightens my own self-deprecating thoughts, and I make constant comparisons to other artists. Most times I just want to stop. But I guess I have this odd tendency to always try and outdo myself. I try to create more; push myself beyond myself.
How do you use your artwork to express your psyche?
I exude very unconventional weirdness by nature. My art and my mental illness just emphasise that weirdness.
You have training in ceramics, industrial design and game design. What motivated you to pursue a career in illustrating rather than those other paths?
I guess I’ve always been obsessed with exaggeration, whether it be body proportion or colour. In my ceramic and game design/3D animation days, I played with breaking normality by changing things in the most subtle of ways, pushing these works to more of a surreal realm. I guess with illustrating, it’s more of a challenge, which is why I love it.
What is the focus of your illustrations?
That it’s okay not to breathe sometimes. You’re not alone in feeling so alone, I guess.
Following you on Insta, it is hard not to notice your love of music. Tell us about what music means in your life?
Music has shaped my life in so many ways. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up as a kid, so music and art were all I had. Even when I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals, the only constant I felt in my life at that time was the vibration through my headphones. A shared intimate connection felt between myself and the lyrics. Even right now, doing this interview, I’m listening to music. It’s my life.
Aside from music, what helps to get you in the mood to create?
Film and drawing inspiration from other artists.
What facets of the African experience and culture do you use as inspiration for your work?
A lot of Johannesburg’s youth culture. It’s gorgeous.
‘Africa is the creative powerhouse of the world. So many other creatives from around the world tap into our frequency and find waves of inspiration here. I foresee the scene growing more now than ever because Africa is making a noise.’
You have said that choosing the alias ‘African ginger’ was spontaneous. Has the meaning of this alias changed for you over the years, beyond its original meaning?
People associate African Ginger with creative force. It’s become this thing, this brand name. Completely separate from me. I find Seth very separate from African Ginger. I no longer create for myself, but for the people around me; to inspire the people around me. I enjoy being separate from it. I sometimes inspire myself.
Why do you often contrast dark themes/motifs with very bright colours?
To emphasise the idea of balance. Balance is key in the self and in the work one creates. In design, you’re taught about the principles of balance; of harmony between two opposing concepts.
When people look at your work, what about you – the artist – do you want them to see? What traces of yourself can be found/identified in the work beyond the artwork’s aesthetic appeal?
The quirky elements of myself embodied in my work.
This year you sold some of your pieces and donated all the proceeds to charity, a highly commendable deed and a rare one. What motivated this act?
I was incredibly blessed to have been able to raise R10 000 in 24 hours by auctioning off my illustrations on Instagram. I donated all the proceeds straight to a charity organisation called TEARS. They focus on aiding women and children who were/are victims of sexual abuse and different forms of abuse in general. A lot of my closest loved ones were victims of sexual abuse. If I can do anything to make a change and stop the cycle, I’ll do it. No one should ever feel the immense pain of abuse and they should know that they are not alone. Creatives are generally empathetic. I believe that everyone does what they can, where they can and in different ways.
What is your vision for the creative scene and industry in Joburg and Africa in general?
It’s a beautiful scene, filled with so many amazing creatives. I might be biased in saying this, but Africa is the creative powerhouse of the world. So many other creatives from around the world tap into our frequency and find waves of inspiration here. I foresee the scene growing more now than ever because Africa is making a noise.
What can people expect from you in the not so distant future?
There are a couple of really cool projects on the way. I can’t really discuss much but stay tuned to see what I’m doing – no matter what it is, I will be challenging myself.
How can people follow what you’re up to?
They can check out my Instagram @african_ginger.