ART2019-08-30T18:02:33+00:00

RICHARD AVERAGE

Richard Average is a Cape Town-based illustrator. His skillful and unrestricted use of color in his creations is not only a reflection of his personality but also serves as an ode to the creative nature of Cape Town youth. His work speaks for itself and if it’s somehow not loud enough, we interviewed Richard and spoke about his passion, his love of sneakers and the uniqueness of his art.

In 2 Sentences, how would you describe yourself?
Awe, wat se julle an? My name is Richard Average. I enjoy street culture, music (especially hip hop but not exclusively) haha and I enjoy skateboarding, socialising, fashion and just being myself all the time and oh, I’m gorgeous.

When did you start on your journey as an illustrator and designer, and what motivated it?

So, I started drawing at the age of 6-7, when I saw my older brother (Chester Horne, who is also a brilliant artist) drawing and I just wanted to try it out and ever since then I fell involve with creating. I found that I really have a passion for creating and I think it was during my college years when I realised what illustration is and since then I have been engulfed in it. I think my motivation behind it was that I could be myself and earn a living doing it for other people. I studied design and understood the fundamentals but I always felt like I loved drawing and when I realised that as an illustrator I can draw and incorporate my design knowledge into it I just felt motivated to pursue it. A lot of my favorite artists at the time while studying illustration were also illustrators and that just motivated me even more.

Tell us about your collaboration with Puma, how did it come about?

The PUMA collab was quite random and cool at the same time. I literally have been drawing sneakers all year and posting it to my social media, and after that, I got followed by Puma South Africa on Instagram and shortly thereafter boom! They slid in my DM’s and wanted to work. They sent me the Puma Cell Venom sneaker and asked me to do a drawing of it. I, of course, decided to do way more than just draw it. I used my creative direction to do a photo-shoot of me in the sneaker, I shot a video with the help my friend Joshua, of me creating the artwork and I came up with a dope final piece. It was really fun and Puma is a great client because they allow for creative expression. Puma then shared it on their Instagram and socials and the artwork has been seen by so many people which is a blessing, as the video has about 34 000 views on Instagram which I think is amazing.

A lot of your sketches are of sneakers; do you consider yourself a sneaker-head and what do you usually look for in a sneaker?

I love drawing sneakers and I consider myself a sneaker-head but not really the biggest one, if that makes sense. I honestly draw sneakers because it appeals to me and ever since I was a kid I have wanted to have cool sneakers because to me personally I feel like your whole outfit could be wack but if your sneakers are clean then the outfit just looks better, haha. I also just draw them because I love street culture and a lot of the time I can’t afford the sneakers I want so I draw them because I feel like by me drawing them one day I’ll be able to afford them haha. Coming from a household where we couldn’t really get everything we wanted I think that’s also the reason I just draw these things is because I feel inspired by them and I am compelled to give my artistic opinion on them, through drawing them :). I’m a skateboarder (even though I don’t skate as much as I would love to anymore) and to me usually, the most important thing is comfortability. I want my sneakers to look good and feel good on me. However, nowadays I’ve been going out of my comfort zone and trying new sneakers and new looks and just adding it to my wardrobe.

What’s the hardest thing about being an artist, and an artist of colour more so?

The hardest thing to me personally as an artist is understanding the job. When it comes to what I do, there aren’t a lot of guidelines and it’s a bit of a “learn as you go” thing. The industry is very tricky and you really have to stand out, so for me personally, it goes back to just being happy with what you create. I think there is a lot of insecurity as a creative as you tend to look around at what everyone else is doing and forget to focus on you and what you want to do. Even more so as a person of colour. I think to me it was really just having more challenges in my circumstances, like not having a laptop or anything like that to work on and just learning to make the most of what I have and still trying to get that vision across. It’s also a mental thing like taking care of yourself mentally and physically in order to create work you’re happy with. A lot of self-doubt happens during the creation process and I think it’s about trusting your gut and believing in what you do and NOT comparing yourself too much, especially in today’s day and age. Being a coloured person is tricky because I feel the illustration industry is pretty much white dominated so it does take a little more from you to be even more resilient and make sure that you and what you are is at the forefront of what you are creating.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by music, skateboarding, people and just this culture we are surrounded by. I tend to take inspiration from whatever and wherever and put that into my work. That’s why my work can sometimes seem all over the place its really just because I enjoy it and everything I’m around inspires me. I’m inspired by a lot of different artists and illustrators within the beautiful city known as Cape Town. Other than that, I am inspired by fashion culture and sneaker culture. Like a random fact, I really can’t create without music, I need music somewhere in the background when I’m creating because I feel like it hypes me up to create what I want to create and how I create it. My mother is also my biggest source of inspiration, she’s helped me with so much and just inspires me every day with her spirit (shouts out to moms).

What do you think differentiates your style of illustration from others?

Hmm good one! I honestly feel like my lifework is one of the best in the game right now, like I’m still figuring a lot out but my lifework is fire and I think it makes my work stand out. Like a lot of people tell me they recognise the work by my style and that’s kinda funny but dope and also I think the way my personal style intertwines with my illustration makes my work even more unique so that in itself will differentiate me and my work from everyone else because I have found comfort and happiness in how different I am as a person and its reflecting in my work! Also no one is doing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it so I’m hella hyped on that and I’m just gonna keep doing my ting (slight flex) and keep building on what Richard Average is and where I am about to go with this vision as a person of colour that is illustrating.

Which creatives do you draw inspiration from?

Russell Abrahams, Seth Pimental, photographer homie of mine Ethan Beukes (my best friend and one of the best photographers I know HIGH KEY!), photographer homie of mine Joshua (homie shot the whole Puma ting!), Karabo Poppy, Ian Jepson, Photographer homie of mine Jason, Shakoer and all the ouens at BRAhSSE, photographer homie of mine Cheslyn, Keya Tama, Rob Erispe, Nicolas Van Graan and so much more. All these homies aren’t illustrators but they inspire me like crazy with what they do in their own fields and the definitely deserve all the love!

Is there anything you’re working on that we should look out for?

Yeah well I recently did another little job for Puma South Africa which was super fun so go peep my gram on that. Also got some work I’m doing for my favourite local brand @artclubandfriends, we’re gonna cook up a fun little project that involves clothing and sneakers and alles so awe! Thats gonna be pretty awesome. Other than that I got some really cool personal projects dropping so keep an eye on my Instagram. Got some ASICS GEL ARTWORK I’m doing and other than that I’m just gonna take over the world step by step so keep a eye out for everything I’m doing 🙂 Oh and one more thing, Is a lieflikke daggie and its glowboy sun so keep growing and glowing to all my mense out there.

ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF RICHARD AVERAGE
TEXT: JOHN CLAUDE

STELLENBOSCH TRIENNALE

The Stellenbosch Triennale, brainchild of the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust, takes place from 11 February to 30 April 2020 in a location renowned for its halls of academia and historical vineyards. The upcoming international showcase, extraordinary in terms of international reach and extent of art on show, will place creativity in critical dialogue with the society that fosters and exhibits it. The theme Tomorrow There Will Be More of Us provides the meeting points for engagement with the divided past, the collective present and imagined futures.

Africa Is Now - Stellenbosch Triennale, African Art, Africa Is Now Magazine
Sethembile Msezane- Water Bodies- Isinqumo I (2018)

AFRICA IS NOW had a discussion with Khanyisile Mbongwa, Chief curator and renowned artist, on the event, the theme and what we can look forward to.

What is your vision for this event?

My vision for the Stellenboch Triennale is to foster a critical space for an eco-system of transformation and transition using art as a lens, a course correction, a stimulus for curiosity and imagination where creatives confront us with what is possible for a renewal to happen.

Working towards intersectional accessibility where we not only acknowledge our diverse ways of existing through race, gender, class, sexuality, differently-abled bodies but constantly finding ways of how to practice and therefore normalize intersectional existence as a lived experience.

Recognizing some of the socio-economic and socio-cultural gaps that exist in learning facilitation, education and mentorship are integral part of our programming on a skills sharing and development level.

Africa Is Now - Stellenbosch Triennale, African Art, Africa Is Now Magazine
Photo by Simnikiwe Buhlungu
Africa Is Now - Stellenbosch Triennale, African Art, Africa Is Now Magazine
Portrait of Simnikiwe Buhlungu by Burezi Turikumwe

How does one encourage community involvement in an event like this, especially from communities who have been previously disenfranchised and who may be ambivalent about art?

It is important that we introduce ourselves to communities surrounding the Triennale and that they are notified about the event driving vision and how it aims to function – so that they are aware of its existence and that there’s an open invitation to attend. This is part of working towards an eco-system, that we recognize each stakeholder as an integral part of the mechanism and that each endorsement makes us more accessible in varying degrees.

It is also of thinking of the programming permeating beyond the recognized center, and curating works within the different locales.

Africa Is Now - Stellenbosch Triennale, African Art, Africa Is Now Magazine
“All these travelers (we are them)”/ “Quo Vadis?” by Canon Rumanzi

What is your art selection process like?

For the upcoming Stellenbosch Triennale, we used various selection processes that are invitation-based. For instance, for The Curators’ Exhibition, we listed over 150 artists all over the continent and our researcher Rashieda Witter created an information document on each artist. Myself with two other curators of the Triennale Nontobeko Ntombela and Bernard Akoi-Jackson went through the list, met for over three days to make the first draft from the list using sub-themes that emerged the main theme as a guideline. The second draft was using the sub-themes to have a closer look at the artist practices and how their work would sit in the broader theme and in conversation with other works. The third draft was to create the final list of the 20 artists.

Africa Is Now - Stellenbosch Triennale, African Art, Africa Is Now Magazine
“All hands on deck”/ “Eternal Babel” 2019 by Canon Rumanzi

With South Africa’s history in mind and perhaps even post-apartheid, can Art be used to heal a broken people, if so how?

I think art can be used as a moment to contemplate and negotiate healing, it can be a tool and medium over which we work through the complexities and nuances in how healing can be imagined from an individual to a collective perspective. Art does transport and suspend the artist and the viewer into a space where visual language translates lived experiences for the purpose of critical introspection and imagination. What we do witness in art is the moment of imagination (ideas/concepts) and manifestation (making of the work) and the process in between is the negotiation of finding ways actualization – and it is this moment when we view the work we experience the potential and possibility of healing. But we must always remember, for healing to happen – there must first be recognition of violence.

There are certain questions regarding social issues that the Triennale attempts to solve through art, one of them being “What relations to nature do we cherish?”, I’ll pose this question to you personally. What relations to nature do you cherish?

I experience being here from a perspective of an Aboriginal saying: We Don’t Own The Earth, The Earth Owns Us… and thus I am always at the mercy and grace of the earth’s giving. Nature is home, and until we all fully understand that we will continue to see ourselves as its masters rather than part of its eco-system.

Africa Is Now - Stellenbosch Triennale, African Art, Africa Is Now Magazine
Wealth Of Nations Installation by Victor Ehikhamenor, Jogja National Museum, Indonesia – Courtesy Jogja Biennale

When discussing the theme “Tomorrow there will be more of us”, you mention that “The theme asks us to think about tomorrow in intersectional ways through remembering, the ancestral, the imaginative and becoming”. Care to elaborate more on this?

We are made up of time, but time is told through particular historical narratives that don’t hold the intersectionality of our experiences. So, in thinking of how we can harness sustainable common futures, we propose an intersectional engagement with time as past, present, future. We are not one complete product, but we are in a state of becoming – and maybe if we see ourselves in this way, we allow ourselves to imagine an Us that can truly share space and resources.

Africa Is Now - Stellenbosch Triennale, African Art, Africa Is Now Magazine
Wealth Of Nations Installation by Victor Ehikhamenor, Jogja National Museum, Indonesia-Courtesy Jogja Biennale

Do you think your immense success as an artist yourself has provided you with either a unique perspective or certain skillsets for the role of Chief curator?

Yes.

Any words of advice for young women out there who may deal with the anxiety that comes with being black?

The anxiety you carry now comes from your lived experience of navigating systems that are rigged to make you invisible. But also know that how you see yourself is more valid than any projections onto you. Though I know resilience and transcending your experience of being black and woman is tiring, I also know that radical black self love is not you being brave but you being honest that you are worthy and deserving – so love yourself radically and deliberately because self love will always compel you to choose yourself over and over again… and in choosing yourself, you can no longer conspire in ways of being killed but will instead find ways of being alive, deliberately.

Visit the Stellenbosch Triennale website for more information.

Africa Is Now - Stellenbosch Triennale, African Art, Africa Is Now Magazine
Chapter Q, Dem Short-Short-Falls by Donna Kukama. Performed and documented at the Bijlmerramp Monument, Amsterdam

MAGOLIDE COLLECTIVE

Adilson De Oliveira and Mzoxolo X Mayongo (X- formerly Christopher), the pioneering duo from the Magolide Collective, are working with digital technology like virtual reality and augmented reality in ways that will your blow your mind. Immerse yourself and critically engage with their truly cutting-edge exhibition titled The Counter-Space of Pop Culture in Zaire at TMRW in Johannesburg. Pay a visit and become part of the art.

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Could you tell us about your background and what led you to working together?

Adilson: I was born in Bez Valley, and have been based in Joburg my whole life. Before this collaboration, I was a solo artist heavily focused on the notions of over-turning the master narrative that existed, and still does exist, in Western art history. I am a conceptual satirist who functions only to make art with a punchline.

Mzoxolo: I’m a Cape Town-born, Joburg-based conceptual artist and scholar. My practice as an individual artist works with the conceptual ideas of the human condition, interrogating nuanced complexities and the dispositions herein. More so, exploring and articulating the African identity, representations, histories and landscapes in the broader sense, which are part of a larger public discourse. I do so through the means of performativity as I use my body as a tool through which my concepts speak. Essentially, I would say I am a cultural and visual activist.

How did the Magolide Collective come about?

Mzoxolo: I was selected through my solo body of work (a series titled: Ubukho Be Ndoda – demystifying the phallus of man) as one of the artists for the Design Indaba: Emerging Creatives 2019. I wanted to transpose my photographic performance residue onto silkscreens. By virtue of the universe, Adilson and I had a chance encounter in the printing studio at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Adilson: At the time I was working as a technician on an edition of 12 colour silk-screens for Giggs Kgole. Mzo happened to walk in when I was pulling the final layers of the edition and asked if I would be able to work with his images from Ubukho Be Ndoda. We then spent the next week working together on three different images – and through the course of the week, decided to pull the prints onto sheets of gold-leaf.

Mzoxolo: That’s how the name Magolide (a Xhosa term for one who possesses or personifies gold) came about. That week of collaboration had so much artistic chemistry and work involved that we kind of organically kept on working together.

Adilson: [Laughing] We realised that what he had as a duo collective was special, and we haven’t looked back.

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For audiences who’ve never engaged with a multisensory digital artwork like this, how would you describe the experience?

Mzoxolo: It’s difficult to articulate as this exhibition exists in a form and function that is new, even to us. Not to sound redundant, it is one that is ‘experiential’; that requires a person to physically put themselves into the work in order to grasp what it is.

Adilson: Because it is such a new medium people need to understand that they aren’t coming to look at a traditional oil-on-canvas, in which the intent of the image is delivered within a glance. This experience takes you out of the gallery/white cube and transports you into a new world.

Mzoxolo: The exhibition recontextualises the function of the gallery, or the said ‘white-cube’, into the recreated space of an African imagination. We’d say it is an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ translated into ‘Alizwa in Gondwana Land’ effect.

Adilson: From interventions (in collaboration with Vincent Baloyi) and mixed-media silkscreens to wheat-paste interactive digital murals, and VR/augmented reality and video performance, it truly is a multi-sensory experience.

Do you hang out at the TMRW gallery during a performance to gauge the reactions and interact with audiences?

Mzoxolo: We find ourselves in the space nearly on a daily basis. Zaire, our shorthand for the exhibition, has become like our baby.

Adilson: [Laughing] We tend to our baby nearly every day, because certain elements are continuously developing and changing. As the show progresses, we add new sculptures, video performances and elements. Therefore, staying around to get people’s reactions to our work helps us to understand where we are heading next. A new body of work can be conceived and sparked through a short conversation with somebody just coming in and engaging with our work.

Mzoxolo: And being in this space gives us the opportunity to engage with the audience as they experience the exhibition. It is so humbling to have direct line of communication with people as they exist in the work and because this is such a new medium, we are open to everybody’s feedback. This is essential with regards to pushing the notions of our conceptual and artistic practice – blurring the conventions of the artwork existing separately to the artist.

Afric Is Now Magazine - Magolide

Could you elaborate on some of the ‘universal symbols’ employed in this piece?

Mzoxolo: We employ a number of universal symbols in our pieces which aim to speak to a broader socio-political African context and the histories and cultural events embedded therein. More so, we have key symbols which we have employed throughout the show: the reference to Andy Warhol, Brenda Fassie, natural mineral resources alluding to the South African mining history, and the implication the West has stolen African art/artefacts.

So too this thematic concept of universal symbols extends to the chosen textile material of the costumes utilised in the performances of the different video performance artworks, VR/Augmented reality and 360 degree films. The characters such as ‘Pink Panther’, ‘Mr. T’, the ‘Apartheid Policeman’, ‘Colonial Bart’, and the ‘Black Body’ (dress up of a latex body suit) all function as metaphors which seek explore, interrogate and confront the multiplicity of these institutionalised knowledge systems and histories which exist in Zaire. They are in actual fact a direct commentary and reflection of our current existing realities, past to present, locally, continentally and globally. What is most important in our conception of this work is how all of these characters and the larger body are underpinned by a playfulness of humour akin to the joker in a royal house.

Adilson: The notion of including Brenda Fassie, speaks to the broader concept of what the exhibition is centered around: a series of investigations that critique the erasure and counterfactual depictions of a true African history.

Mzoxolo: The Brenda Fassie silkscreens are reminiscent of the technical aesthetic language around Andy Warhol’s ‘Marilyn Monroe’. We strive to ask the question: what would Western Art History look like if it was written (or painted/silkscreened/performed) by a South African/African creative at large?

Brenda Fassie is a predominant artistic figure in our cultural and broader socio-political history in South Africa who represents and signifies marginalised black bodies, particularly of the female and/or queer black body.

We as male artists are very much aware of our positionality and we use her iconography as a means of overturning the oppression and exploitation of Brenda, and to herald her as a figure of celebrating African women in society, in art history, as a LGBTQI+ protagonist, and so too in our lives.

Adilson: The Egyptian statue is that of Queen Nefertiti which was stolen by the Germans in 1913 through the use of fraudulent documents. The semiotics surrounding the sculpture’s history were fascinating to us as a collective, as the sculpture was allegedly considered to be returned in 1935, but Hitler decided against it. Egypt has been campaigning for decades for Germany to return the statue. Germany continues to profit greatly from Nefertiti as the figure draws millions of museum visitors annually. This statue alludes to a general theme of colonial dictatorship and exploitation. And this, too, is found to be true with regards to the other artefacts used throughout the show, such as that of the Benin Ivory Masks and Bangwa Queen sculpture from Cameroon, and many others.

Mzoxolo: In essence this speaks to a larger issue of art/artefacts and the mineral resources of the African continent which were pillaged and stolen, justified by the notion of ‘anthropological and cultural preservation’, whilst enriching and benefitting only the Western institutions (galleries, museums and others) and their socio-political and economical standing in the global system.

How have people responded to the exhibition?

Mzoxolo: The response has been great. A lot of people have been bewildered and also overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the whole exhibition and the experience that they’ve gained. It usually takes them some time to unpack what it is they are experiencing.

Adilson: People have been blown away and wowed by the scale and attention to detail of the work, but more so by the concept at large.

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It must be an incredibly complex and long process to create a performance art piece of this nature. Could you run us through what the process is in terms of what your roles are and how you usually kick off the creative process and work together to produce the final piece?

Mzoxolo: As a duo Adilson and I understand the different elements we hold in our individual practices. Adilson has a vast knowledge of Western art history and the key figures that hold positions of acclaim within it. Adilson’s practice is then located in the notions of overturning the master narrative which exists in Western art history through the tool of burlesque parody.

Adilson: Mzo’s practice is located in exploring and interrogating the construct of the black body and its identity in relation to the experiences of African histories, culture, traumas, fragmented memories and representation whilst attending to the complexities of being ‘African’ – in the past, present and future. This is all within the context of confronting the Western supposed global histories that exist whilst inserting and rewriting a new African perspective.
His work is located in the utilisation of performance as the body is his primary tool to invocate conversation around different concepts of human identity. This then is mediated through our use of different mediums: print-making, sculpture, painting, performance, video art, etc. This therefore brings about a sense of an ever growing ‘multi-chotomy’ of perspective.

Mzoxolo: All of our concepts are conceived, nurtured and executed by us right through from start to end. We bounce ideas back and forth between us up until the last video is edited or final layer of silkscreen is pulled and framed.

Adilson: So too is our work located in the field of anthropological research. Every aspect and detail that exists in this exhibition echoes hours of engagement with reading materials, visual, and audio media information as well as critically engaging in conversation with diverse astute persons who are masters in their specific fields.

In terms of Magolide as a collective, could you tell us a little more about your collaborators and how you work together? Are they your regular collaborators, or do people come in and out of this collective as needed?

Mzoxolo: Hafiza Asmal, Vincent Baloyi and Gabriel Baard are the primary collaborators of this exhibition as they enacted and performed different roles and characters as a reimagining of Africa’s omitted histories and representations. Moreover, Hafiza brought in a unique voice with elements of her individual artistic practice in relation to our overarching concept as the Magolide duo.

Adilson: With regards to ubaba Vincent Baloyi and our collaboratively working with him, Mzo and I create, curate, and direct works and shows which aim to herald a call for inclusion, as well as the overturning of convention evident throughout art history of forgotten and omitted modernists. We are working with Vincent to ensure he is inserted and re-established into the South African history of art…

Mzoxolo: …and hopefully this partnership with Vincent will serve as a vehicle through which his artistic practice can have a well-deserved and hard-earned light shining upon it in the art world.

Adilson: Vincent Baloyi is a name that rarely comes up in conversation when one discusses Eduardo Villa, Sam Nhlengethwa, Rorkes Drift and many more crucial aspects of South Africa’s art history. Based on his timeline and geographical locations he was producing the same level of work as the artists mentioned above, and part of a collective of black modernists performing avant-garde gambits crucial to the formation of South African art history.

Mzoxolo: With regards to Zaire we collaborated on a series of metal sculptures in which his conceptual and technical mastery of the sculptural medium are in conversation with our performance video/3D-printed sculptures. Overall, there is a merging of his sculptural ideas into our broader concept of Zaire which talks to the erasure and forgotten histories and representation in the art world. Particularly, in the literal sense of a forgotten legendary artist such as himself.

Adilson: Going forward with future projects we’re looking forward to working with more practicing artists with regards to collaboration.

What are some of the biggest challenges in terms of converging the world of cutting-edge tech with the world of art?

Adilson: The biggest challenge is the lack of understanding around the medium of Virtual Reality (VR) and augmented reality, as it is still in its infancy with regards to how far it can be pushed in the artistic realm. In the South African art world, the medium is still perceived as a gimmick and thus most artists who have engaged with the medium do so with minimum understanding about how creatively expansive this medium actually is.

Many South African art collectors and art institutions are anxious about the medium as a collectable artistic object. So making money from this medium is still something many people are trying to navigate. As such, Ann Roberts (Director of TMRW) is one of the people at the helm of creating a market and a framework around this medium, and provides educational information around how this work can be used side by side with traditional mediums, informing the future with the past.

Mzoxolo: Adilson and I work to overcome any challenges that we encounter, and working as an artist working in this new medium of VR whilst establishing ourselves in the art world has been a big lesson. A point of reference is how we took something as ephemeral as a VR illusion, existing as a technological file, and then transcribed parts of it into something tactile and tangible by making the oculus (3D goggles in which you view the VR work) into sculptural objects. We did this by making the oculus part of a sculpture with which the audience must engage. This speaks directly to the alchemy of what Magolide is about and tries to do –transmuting materials from one form into another, a new gold standard of visual and virtual objects.

How do you go about creating your characters, such as ‘Colonial Bart’ (Silkscreen on Canvas), a gun-slinging Bart Simpson?

Adilson: Bart stands as a representation of a visual aesthetic language I grew up engaging with. Animators from the late 80s and 90s – specifically those which produced shows for MTV – nurtured my need to work with these popular culture icons as a tool of critique. The Bart character was inspired by Brett Murrays’ Africa, and thus became a parody of his work. The conception of the ‘Colonial Bart’ – or just the use of the Bart Simpson mask – comes from an inherent resentment I harbour towards the majority of white, post-apartheid South African artists, who used the language and guise of resistance art to position and assert their ‘value’ conceptually, technically and, as a byproduct, monetarily in the cannon of South African art history.

In many ways the ‘Colonial Bart’ speaks to the voyeuristic and consumerist implication of white homogeny in the creation of knowledge systems and cultural mechanisms which dictate the consumption of the value in art and other cultural spheres and histories. Locally and abroad, voyeurism is used as a tool that privileges the white artist and the white body in all respects and ‘Colonial Bart’ strives to expose those prejudices and biases through the use of humour and parody.

From the viewer’s perspective, you’ve said that there’s an element of voyeurism and an element of self-awareness. Do you think that this discomfort presents new challenges to audiences who are, generally speaking, comfortable with tech and the anonymity of social media?

Mzoxolo: We’d like to think and hope so. From our perspective, there definitely is an intention of exploring a state of voyeurism. As the audience enters the space, they are engaged through the use of technological devices which serve to heighten the elements of awareness within the work and form. In fact, the art consumer becomes the art – all in the process of consuming this body of work. The spectator is encouraged to move around the space, taking in the landscape and portraits before them thus adding a nuanced layer on the performativity of the work.

How can readers keep up to date with what the Magolide Collective’s working on next?

Adilson: Keep your eyes peeled and ears to the ground and follow us on our Instagram pages: @jesus_of_jozi & @Mzoxolo_x_mayongo

The Counter-Space of Pop Culture in Zaire is on at TMRW (The Mixed Reality Workshop) in Johannesburg until 28 September.

DANIELA YOHANNES

Since the beginning of time, mankind has searched for answers to the plethora of existential questions. In the quest for answers we have looked inwards to the subconscious and outwards to the cosmos – Daniela Yohannes’s work seems to be the manifestation of what would happen if a philosopher traded their pen for a paintbrush. Her striking work deals mostly with themes of ‘consciousness and ancestry, the ethereal nature of the cosmos and plurality of the individual’.

Africa Is Now - Daniela Yohannes
Africa Is Now - Daniela Yohannes

Tell us about your journey as an artist. How did it all begin?

I spent a great deal of time making art in my teens and took it quite seriously in college. I went on to study illustration at University, but struggled to settle in, as I was the only black student in the whole department. During my studies I was always seeking ways to combine image making with ideas and concepts that were important to me. I found this difficult within a commercial course, and as a result I became disillusioned and uninspired by what I felt was a lack of substance in the practice.

It was at this pivotal moment that I discovered a jazz scene that was vibrant and alive in the heart of London. I immersed myself in it and in doing so, I began working to facilitate performances and events. I was also in a relationship with a jazz musician and learnt a great deal from him about the music and its history. I witnessed a whole new generation of musicians, both European and American. At the time I had no idea what I was doing, hanging out in jazz clubs and absorbing all this music. I just knew I loved it and the feeling it gave me; that feeling of being a part of a community, a sense of belonging and the free, radical nature of music and lifestyle.

I came back to image making, and began creating album covers and promotional content for jazz groups, until my relationship ended and I needed to remove myself from this very intimate scene. In 2010, I was offered an artist residency in Thailand. Those three solitary months were spent in a depression that transformed into a rebirth of sorts. I consider this the beginning of my practice.

All those years spent listening to the music and seeing how these musicians approached it became my unconventional education. I learnt about risk, reward and improvisation. I continued to be close to the music and spent many years travelling with jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. He led me deeper into music, introduced me to a world of literature, art, esoteric concepts, silence and solitude that continue to penetrate my life and art. Those 10 years spent with Keith taught me the importance of doing the work – and the power and strength of intuition.

Africa Is Now - Daniela Yohannes

You were also involved in the world of dance before you became a painter. How did jazz and dance influence you as an artist?

Both these art forms contain in them great elements of improvisation and I think I was unconsciously creating in the same improvisational style. My practice up until this last body of work The Fall: A Woman’s Descent into the Unconscious have all been created with this same unpredictable and spontaneous spirit that jazz and dance embody. I would paint the figure first, then allow it to dictate the narrative; often not being able to come up with a real explanation for each finished piece. This is reflected in the unrestricted colours, and palettes chosen intuitively.

You call yourself ‘painter of the invisible’ on Instagram… what does ‘the invisible’ mean to you? 

Forces and concepts that drive and surround us: unseen but constantly at work on our bodies and minds.

The settings for most of your paintings seem to be alternate dimensions or other worlds. Why is that?

For a long time I didn’t continuously pay much attention to this aspect of my work. However, now that I have a new sense of focus and direction, I have come to understand that at the heart of my work I am interested in examining how we identify with our surroundings, environment and each other. How we create roots in unexpected places. What experiences shape those identities, and how you can be made to feel like you don’t belong in a place that you deeply connect with as home. Also how by embracing a non-identity you can access true freedom.

I am the outcome of multiple identities. There are many places I can call ‘home’ and in all of these places I have attempted to establish roots. However, my experiences have exposed me to the notion of ‘other’. I grew up feeling hostilities that caused me to want to flee. So I contemplated the stars and imagined a personal utopia – an escape – seeking alternative worlds and spaces that can offer me sanctuary. I often paint this lone figure in semi-abstract space as a projection of my rejection and simultaneous navigation of struggles and identities.

Africa Is Now - Daniela Yohannes

‘I often paint this lone figure in semi-abstract space as a projection of my rejection and simultaneous navigation of struggles and identities.’

Africa Is Now - Daniela Yohannes

Your work deals with dreams and the subconscious, which you describe as ‘a place of magic, transformation and rebirth’. Can you explain what role this plays in the creation of your artworks?

I deeply believe in the important connection between mind, body, soul, spirit and heart. In my work I consult my subconscious and dreams as a means to process those buried feelings: the work becomes a process from which I can access those dominant emotions and get insight. It is not an easy pursuit, but I aim to give this aspect of my life much importance and consideration. It is a kind of silent teacher guiding me. By doing this work I have been able to resolve personal health issues, fears and trauma. Therefore art is a necessary healing practice.

And you also touch on this exploration of the subconscious leading you to a ‘deeply personal healing narrative’. Can you elaborate?

The experiences I accumulated and absorbed in my life began to display their effects on my mind and body. Social inequality played its part in creating that disconnected and ‘alien-life’ feeling. I’m trying to be present and listen to my deeper self and making art from this emotional pandemonium. In doing so I resolve a lot of this external pollution: it is an ongoing healing practice.

Your work often depicts solitary figures, which is opposite to the belief that ‘by nature, man is a social animal’ (Aristotle’s Politics), what are your thoughts on this?

Solitude is a comfort to me and the only way to hear myself. I don’t believe I could create work without this precious silence. My time is often spent in nature and away from city life and its activities. It is only from time to time that I venture into the city and absorb that life. This quiet contemplation of thoughts and feelings feeds into my work. My connection to the invisible and the unseen forces has always been revealed in silence and solitude.

I am painting about an internal dialogue that deals precisely with the nature and desires of belonging and finding one’s place in the world. And while human beings are inherently meant for communal life, I think social inequalities create a sense of loneliness in a world full of people. My hope is that my work speaks to that part of you that struggles to find a place; inviting you to venture into the unknown and alerting you to self-remember.

Africa Is Now - Daniela Yohannes
Africa Is Now - Daniela Yohannes

‘When I first started out, I mixed collage and painting techniques by painting over white faces in beauty magazines with black paint. Subconsciously there was something cathartic about that. Purposefully projecting blackness to elevate blackness.’

You tend to use very dark colours for all the human figures in your work, what’s the symbolism here?

I think there are many meanings one can draw from the dark figures. ‘Black’ as a colour has come to mean so many different things over the ages. When I first started out, I mixed collage and painting techniques by painting over white faces in beauty magazines with black paint. Subconsciously there was something cathartic about that. Purposefully projecting blackness to elevate blackness. As the work developed, more layers of meaning arose. Black became the primordial darkness; a representation of the void and the figures amidst the bright colours became kind of black holes; drawing the viewer to them. In the same way that a black hole’s gravitational field is so intense that no matter or radiation can escape, so the gaze is held by the dark figure.

Tell us more about how your film (ATOPIAS, I Have Left that Dark Cave Forever, My Body has Blended with Hers) came about and the difficulties or joys of creating a film versus painting?

Exploring film has really come about as a natural progression. It is an extension of my painting practice. I wanted to bring my paintings to life and make work with movement and narrative. The shift of role from author to the subject, in some ways looped back to my dance practice, as I became the performer as well as the artist in my own work. I experienced the physical burden of creating in a different and very visceral way.

Africa Is Now - Daniela Yohannes

AFRICAN GINGER

Africa Is Now Magazine - African Ginger

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.

Africa Is Now Magazine - African Ginger
Africa Is Now Magazine - African Ginger

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 Now Magazine - African Ginger
Africa Is Now Magazine - African Ginger

‘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.’

Africa Is Now Magazine - African Ginger

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.

Africa Is Now Magazine - African Ginger

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.

Africa Is Now Magazine - African Ginger
Africa Is Now Magazine - African Ginger
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