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 in love 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 myself in the sneaker. I shot a video with the help my friend Joshua, of myself 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 that 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 that 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 such as 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, it’s really just because I enjoy it and everything  I am 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. A random fact is that 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 linework is one of the best in the game right now. 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 it’s 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 in illustration.

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 they definitely deserve all the love!

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

Yeah 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! That’s 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 an eye out for everything I’m doing 🙂 Oh and one more thing, Is a lieflikke daggie and its glowboy szn (season) so keep growing and glowing to all my mense out there.

ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF RICHARD AVERAGE
TEXT: JOHN CLAUDE

2019-10-23T07:25:10+00:00

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
2019-10-21T19:01:27+00:00

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.

2019-09-27T11:30:08+00:00

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
2019-09-02T18:47:51+00:00

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
2019-09-15T16:51:00+00:00

BROWNCOFFEEMOKA

BROWNCOFFEEMOKA is a designer, illustrator and visual artist, whose creations are black, defiant, and socially and environmentally conscious. She is also strongly connected to environmental concerns, and creates her art sustainably by drawing on recycled paper, employing reused fabrics and upcycling. We talk to her about her recent collection NA BOLAYI YA EBALE CONGO, the Afropunk exhibition and working with sartorial menswear brand Art Comes First. Through her work, she follows in the footsteps of her Congolese ancestors, who shine a guiding light on the harmonious relationships between nature, animals, art and humanity.

Africa Is Now - BROWNCOFFEEMOKA
Africa Is Now - BROWNCOFFEEMOKA
Africa Is Now - BROWNCOFFEEMOKA

Tell us a bit about your upbringing.

I grew up with my two little sisters in a multicultural family. My father is Congolese and my mother is French. We have a lot of different origins: Polish, Russian, English, Spanish, Indian, Northern African, South American… I did not really see that there was a difference between black and white when I was at home.

But the outside world has shown me that black and white are not the same. At home, my mother was not white and my father was not black. They were just two people who had chosen to love, respect and grow together and even if they knew who they were, what mattered were their hearts, their souls and the energy they were sharing.

Respect, open-mindedness, sustainability, knowledge, culture and art have been part of my life since my childhood. We have learnt that all life matters: flora and fauna, human lives, mineral lives, previous lives, spiritual lives – all have their importance on Earth.

Art has been probably the most important element in my everyday life. I started drawing when I was maybe 2 or 3 years old. It was very natural for me and it was the moment I could be at peace with myself and with my thoughts. I was happy to be alone to draw and to create. I visited a lot of museums and art galleries with my parents. They taught me a lot about art, culture and history.

Have you always wanted to become a visual artist?

I think so, yes. Of course, when I was growing up, I was trying to fit into society and to find a ‘real job’, like being a doctor, or a lawyer, but deep inside I wanted my art to flourish. I realised that when I was 14. It was hard to convince my parents, but they eventually saw that it was part of me and understood that they had been feeding my love of art since childhood.

Africa Is Now Magazine - BROWNCOFFEEMOKA, Congo, Art, African Art

How did your collaboration with Art Comes First come about?

I was their assistant for 6 months, helping them in the design, during the showrooms, etc. One day Sam Lambert saw one of my artworks on Instagram and loved it. It became part of their collection for Complex Con in LA. I stopped working for them in January. I have learnt a lot with them, but I needed to focus on my art and to work for myself.

Tell us about your exhibition at AFROPUNK Paris 2019.

It was a fantastic moment in my creative life. It was all about culture, art and energies. A lot will come from this exhibition. It was the first time AFROPUNK Paris curated an art exhibition during the festival. I was chosen alongside various artists to be part of the Arts and Times exhibition. Ami Weickaane, the curator of this exhibition, was very kind, helpful and a great listener. She felt the vibrations of my artworks and decided to highlight them. I have to thank her so very much for that. I exhibited 4 artworks about the universe: Mother Earth, the spirit of my ancestors and the essence of womanhood, and 4 photographs about my project NA BOLAYI YA EBALE CONGO that were taken by photographer Marc Posso. It was great to let the world see the versatility of my work and the message I want to bring to people. It was a great moment of communication, of gathering and a flourishing and creative time. I am currently working on the next chapter of my project. I can already feel the highest vibes of my ancestors.

Africa Is Now - BROWNCOFFEEMOKA

‘My roots are essential. They have been part of me for all my life. I cannot even imagine creating without thinking about them. One of my uncles told me: “You are the reincarnation of your ancestors. Never forget where you come from and who you are”.’

Africa Is Now - BROWNCOFFEEMOKA

NA BOLAYI YA EBALE CONGO highlights art and crafts across the different ethnic groups in Congo. What are your thoughts on the perception that due to the political unrest portrayed by the media, there is not much of an art scene in Congo?

One of the saddest things for me is that people want power, money and material possessions. They do not focus on the truest and purest essence of life. My ancestors were doing divine masterpieces – in textile, sculpture, painting, jewellery, etc… And still, we have a lot of gifted craftsmen and artists in Congo. Unfortunately, the country does not give them what they need to shine in the way in which they deserve. Our grandparents gave their lives for us to be an independent and free country. It is as if we have forgotten their sacrifice or as if we take this for granted.

Congolese artists are highly talented. We just need to showcase them, to help them to spread their magic, their love and their message. That is what I tried to do with this project. My goal was to let the world know about our rich culture, our great art, our magnificent pride, and about our traditions. I wish people knew the history of Congo better. What we have been through, how strong we are, how royal we are. My duty is to give light, respect and love to that land, which I have yet to visit. A part of my soul and heart were born in Congo, or Congo was born in me I don’t know. But there is this sacred link between my country and me.

What inspires your creativity?

I can be inspired by so many different things… A colour, a sound, a feeling, an energy can inspire me. History, cultures and roots also inspire me and I am always looking for cultures or traditions I have never encountered before. Beauty, spirituality and mysticism are also part of my essential inspirations. But my general inspiration comes from what the Earth, the moon and the universe give me. It comes from the sacred energy around me. Also, pain, anger and sadness can give me material to work with.

Africa Is Now - BROWNCOFFEEMOKA
Africa Is Now Magazine - BROWNCOFFEEMOKA, Congo, Art, African Art
Africa Is Now - BROWNCOFFEEMOKA

You incorporate the theme of ancestry into your art, why is that important to you?

It is very important to know my heritage, to be immersed in my culture in order to honour my ancestors. They have been creating those beautiful and strong traditions for such a long time. They share their history with me. They guide me in my everyday life. They bless me with their light and with their energy. I always feel their vibrations, so it is completely natural to pay tribute to them and to respect them by creating for them and with them.

Without my ancestors I would not be myself. My roots are essential. I cannot even imagine creating without thinking about them. One of my uncles told me: ‘You are the reincarnation of your ancestors. Never forget where you come from and who you are’, and this makes true sense to me. My parents have always told me about my past, my history and my heritage, which is why I am permanently flourishing.

Your art deals with spirituality, nature, culture and love, among other things, what interests you about these themes?

Those themes are the most pure, raw and deep to me. They deal with the true essence, the ancestral, and the most natural energy we can have. To really understand these themes, you have to connect yourself to the essence of art and creation. Everything starts with creation. You have to search your soul; through your pains, your feelings and your emotions to sincerely create. Most of the time it can be draining but this is the most real and sacred kind of art.

Africa Is Now - BROWNCOFFEEMOKA
2019-08-20T12:20:53+00:00

CROSS THE RIVER IN A CROWD

We came across Dan Halter’s work on a cold First Thursday and were immediately captured by his vivid and striking images. Dan possesses the unique ability to take materials ubiquitous to South Africa and use them to tackle pervasive issues affecting Africa and, more specifically, Zimbabwe.

Cross The River In A Crowd - Africa Is Now Magazine

Who is Dan Halter?

I am a conceptual artist making work about Zimbabwe and South Africa, and tackling issues I find personally relevant. I grew up in Zimbabwe and relocated here to study art. I also have Swiss roots on both sides of my family and have spent some time in Switzerland.

How and why did you start making art?

I started drawing and then painting when I was quite young which I really enjoyed. I was encouraged by my family and I decided early on that I would like to pursue a career as an artist. I have always found art to be a great way to express myself. I also like the fact that I am more or less free to do whatever I want, whenever I want.

I was fortunate that my grandmother enrolled me for art classes with Helen Lieros at Gallery Delta in Harare at the age of 10 or 11. There, on Saturday mornings, I attended free-spirited art classes that I continued throughout high school, doing O and A Level art there as an extra subject.

Cross The River In A Crowd - Africa Is Now Magazine
Cross The River In A Crowd - Africa Is Now Magazine

Do you consider yourself firstly a Zimbabwean living in South Africa or an African living in South Africa?

I do feel a strong connection to both Zimbabwe and South Africa. I spent the first half of my life, including the most formative years, in Zimbabwe (18 years) and the second half in South Africa (20 years up until now). I also spent 4 years in Switzerland, 2 influential years after leaving home for the first time at the age of 18, and 2 after graduating from Michaelis School of Fine Art.

Your current exhibition Cross the River in a Crowd includes a sculpture of a mother with a baby on her back, balancing a load on her head. Tell us more about this imagery.

The mother and child is a recurring theme in art and I have used variations of this in my art before. In Shona sculpture, the abstract mother and child embracing is so common that it often found as a curio. In this version of mine, the mother is carrying her child on her back and a load on her head in a way that is common in Zimbabwe. The load in my work is vastly exaggerated and suggests the balancing rock formations common to Zimbabwe that are also depicted on many Zimbabwean bank notes. For me, the image of a mother and child, half-submerged in a river border crossing, with all her worldly possessions on her head, suggests the height of desperation.

What is your process for choosing material for a project?

I choose materials that resonate with me. The project will normally dictate the materials in some way. The starting point may be a proverb or expression that lends itself to being visualised in a certain way. I gravitate towards cheap and ubiquitous materials such as plastic-weave bags, matches, paint sample cards and beads. The process of making the work is often labour-intensive.

How do you know when a work is finished?

When I used to paint, I struggled with this issue and I often over-worked my paintings. With the work I make now, I am more removed from the process and so it is easier for me to tell when something is finished.

Cross The River In A Crowd - Africa Is Now Magazine

What is the best advice you have been given?

It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than than to ask for permission.

You have a brilliant ability to tackle pervasive issues that affect the majority of Africa. How do you manage to stay both personal and original in your creative endeavours?

Thank you. I am inspired by stories and there is an abundance of good stories to be found here.

If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?

I would like my work to challenge people and hopefully create a more tolerant and understanding society.

Cross The River In A Crowd - Africa Is Now Magazine

Have you ever been faced with negative feedback? How was this reflected in your work, if at all?

I have been faced with some negative feedback that I did not agree with and it has not reflected in my work.

What is coming up next for you?

I have an exhibition coming up with This is No Fantasy, a collaboration between respected Melbourne gallerists Dianne Tanzer and Nicola Stein, in Australia in November.

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Via my website: www.danhalter.com

DAN’S PROJECT IS ON EXHIBITION AT WHATIFTHEWORLD/GALLERY UNTIL 31 AUGUST 2019

Cross The River In A Crowd - Africa Is Now Magazine

TEXT: JOHN CLAUDE @_johnclaude

2019-08-20T09:19:15+00:00

MARK DRAWS

An artist interested in the reimagining of African identities and stories, Mark Antony Modimola uses ink, acrylics and digital art to explore representations of blackness and contemporary Africa through themes such as self, Afrofuturism and nature.

Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws

With Africa’s colonial history, how does one begin to reimagine African identities and stories?

One might begin by looking at African identities and storytellers who have made it their mission to tell African stories from the mind of an African.

We can look at the cultural writings of Wole Soyinka and Credo Mutwa, and the artwork of Kehinde Wiley and Nelson Makamo in order to begin gauging the vibrant depth of being African. The intention being to make oneself aware of who we are, of Africa and its African qualities.

We are rich in stories waiting to be uncovered. I believe Africans should focus on their own voice, and African stories being told by old and young Africans, as much of our history has been told for us.

What themes are you exploring with your work at the moment?

My work currently deals with self-love and the relationship we share with water and our hair as Africans. Our hair forms part of our identity as Africans, water forms part of us as beings, thus both are physically and metaphysically tethered to our vision of self.

How big is the role that hair plays in our identity as Africans?

Hair for us as Africans is a power tool. We have used it to resist oppression and to distinguish ourselves, our cultures and our mood. The texture, colour and forms are uniquely African; it’s our voice.

We are able to manifest thoughts through our hair; to connect to each other. It connects to our subconscious and thus forms part of our dreams and identity. Hair is aspirational and a statement for Africans as a result.

Which artists or creatives have influenced or inspired your creative process?

Definitely, the music of Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) and Fela Kuti, and Credo Mutwa’s African symbolism and knowledge. They are all incredible storytellers. I love the visual art of Harmonia Rosales and James Jean. Their subjects, reimaginings and scale of work inspire my own career as a storyteller and artist.

Where can people find your work?

On Instagram @mark_draws and at The Moral Kiosk in Melville, Johannesburg.

Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
Africa Is Now Magazine - Mark Draws
2019-07-14T18:51:26+00:00

WOLE LAGUNJU

Currently living in the US, Nigerian artist Wole Lagunju focuses on challenging and critiquing notions of imperialistic cultural idioms. He talks to AFRICA IS NOW about his exhibition Yoruba Remixed, the role of African history in his art and his exploration of the symbolism of Gelede masks.

Who is Wole Lagunju?

I grew up in Osogbo, a town in Western Nigeria famous for its art movement. Osogbo is also known for the annual Osun-Osogbo festival, an event which is a celebration of the river goddess, Osun. I graduated in 1986 from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) with a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a specialisation in graphic design. Over the years, my art practice has examined the cultural idioms and visual design of the indigenous artistic practices of traditional Yoruba women in Nigeria. In my paintings and installations, I have explored the design and motifs found in adiré textiles, traditionally dyed indigo fabric. Recently my art has also examined Gelede masks with a view to bringing fresh insights into Yoruba mask making.

Gelede is a male-oriented dance which celebrates women and their sacred powers of procreation and sexuality.’

How did you start painting?

My painting experience started as a youngster growing up in Osogbo, in the early ’70s. I grew up in the midst of artistic activities and participated in the Osogbo art movement under the tutelage and mentorship of some of the principal artists like Jacob Afolabi. Professional painting started for me while at the University of Ife, but I did not pursue it as a major. It was one of the electives I chose towards a degree in graphic design. After my graduation from the University of Ife, I worked at The Daily Times in the early ’90s as an illustrator. Thereafter, I had a brief stint in advertising and after some travelling in Europe, in the late ’90s I decided to practice as a full-time studio artist with an initial bias for painting and drawing.

What role does African history play in your paintings?

My relocation to the Western world has reintroduced me to societies with an historical background of colonisation and imperialism. My living experiences in them have exposed me to the present and historical roles these societies have played in the shaping of the African continent. For example, in the US there’s a historical and cultural background of slavery and racism. It has led me along a path towards re-evaluating the purpose of my art and the issues that I choose to address. The social experiences I have encountered have made me rethink the purpose of art in itself and the role of the contemporary African artist.

In my recent artworks, I address the issues inherent in African history by critiquing imperialistic cultural idioms and interrogating the colonisation of Africa and the subjugation of its traditional culture.

What place does African culture and tradition have among today’s African youth?

Globalisation has opened a vista of world culture to the African youth with access via the internet to a plethora of information, introducing them to a wide array of cultural choices. Traditional African and indigenous culture is now thought of as unfashionable or inferior.

The Yoruba Remixed paintings utilise a lot of traditional masks. Can you elaborate on their symbolism?

My paintings in this exhibition reference Gelede masks. Gelede masks are worn by Yoruba menfolk to celebrate women and their relevance to Yoruba society. Gelede is a male-oriented dance which celebrates women and their sacred powers of procreation and sexuality. The masks and dances satirise, entertain and educate onlookers and the society at large. As much as Gelede celebrates the powers of motherhood in Yoruba women they are also a salutation to their personal physical attributes and endowment. This is found in the meaning of the word Gelede itself. ‘Ge’ means to ‘pet or tenderly deal with’, ‘ele’ refers to a woman’s private parts and ‘de’ means ‘to soften them with gentleness’.

Gelede masks have elaborate wooden superstructures with carved human and animal imagery. These are spiritual and physical representations alluding to the awesome powers of ‘our mothers’ or women. They also represent the Yoruba notion of the physical head or ori of an individual. Ori being the seat of the life force in the physical and supernatural realms.

Check out the Yoruba Remixed artworks here.

2019-08-20T10:26:22+00:00

GRAPHIC DESIGNER: KHANYA, THE DESIGNER

We spoke to the South African queer illustrator extraordinaire about his multi-cultural upbringing, influences and one-of-a-kind illustrations that address hard-hitting subject matter, spanning the spectrums of race, sexuality and gender identity, with mystical themes and colourful vibrancy.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I am currently 22. I was born to a Zulu mother and Cameroonian father who nurtured my artist’s dreams from a very young age. As a result, I have always been clear about who I am and what I’d like to be, with regards to my skillset, career choice, sexuality and transgender identity. Around grade 10 marked the first time I started doing graphic design for clients, ranging from government to other high schoolers. Starting graphic design and making money from it at such a young age made me enjoy the idea of freelancing, but my African parents were not about to let me do that (laughs). In 2014, I started first year at the Open Window Institute studying visual design and in 2015, I found my true calling when I had to select my preferred majors and electives. I fell in love with Illustration that year and it opened up my eyes to my design potential. In 2016, I left Open Window due to lack of funds. That was also the day I decided to embrace the freelance life I had initially wanted. Attending design school did make some things easier to grasp and I would definitely advise going to a school dedicated to your preferred craft, purely to learn and apply the fundamentals of the field. The choice to freelance is the reason ‘Khanya, The Designer’ , as you know him today, even exists.

‘The choice to freelance is the reason “Khanya, The Designer” as you know him today even exists.’

What did you learn when you were studying graphic design?

I learnt about how art can be applied and the potential that exists in illustrations. I designed everything, mostly using Adobe Illustrator, from stamps, storybooks, plush toys, murals, apparel design to how to draw faster and how to use a wider range of mediums. Although, once I started freelancing, I really started to embrace, explore and draw using Adobe Photoshop as a medium which isn’t something I would say I learnt during my schooling. But it shaped my visual art style to what it is today, no doubt about that.

Growing up, did you have any African creative role models, and if so who?

My aunt, my mother’s youngest sister, was the very first queer woman of colour whom I witnessed explore the arts and do amazingly at it. She would bring back huge paintings with dark narratives and nudity. I’d stare at her artworks as they lay on the dining room table and get lost in the colours and detailing. She also really encouraged me as an artist around that time and would use some of my ‘babydrawing’ techniques in her pieces. My mother was another creative role model. She studied fine art when she was young and was incredible at it, but unfortunately, her parents didn’t encourage her at all. I remember seeing her highly detailed, full-page drawings of my baby hands, feet and eyes. Honestly, my mother is far more talented than me.

How did your unique illustrating style come about?

With regards to the visual execution – the colours I use, shading techniques, effects and overall look of my work – it was intensely influenced by my long-term, serious relationship with pop style and 90s cartoon, as well as using Adobe Photoshop and exploring the effects, brushes, etc. I pretty much never draw on paper, which isn’t great, but damn impressive, if you ask me.

What influences the subject matter that your artwork depicts?

The narratives and stories behind my illustrations have been influenced by my experiences on Earth as Khanya. The experiences within my existence as a young, black, queer transman and my relationship with the lack of representation, and complete erasure, of those like myself in the art scene; my experiences with my blackness and masculinity, my two years of homelessness and my relationship with the Earth, to name a few.

Take us through the process of creating one of your pieces, from inspiration and idea to the Instagram post.

I usually either create a quote or phrase for myself or read through text messages, blogs or articles on specific topics to get the inspiration flowing. Thereafter, it’s a matter of looking at lots, I mean lots and lots, of pictures and videos, ranging from tattoo designs, avant-garde photography, portrait photography, memes; ranging from explicit content to make-up tutorials. Once I have an idea of at least three somewhat correlating artworks (because you can only post three artworks per row on Instagram), it’s a matter of setting up the document on Photoshop. I usually go for an A2 size page, 300dpi and I make the page an off-white colour. From that point, it’s doing the linework, or ‘the skeleton’ of the artwork as I call it. After linework, it’s the base colours for each element, and after the base colours, I add shading and highlights where necessary. After shading and highlights are incorporated, then it’s the final effects, like lens flares, patterns on clothing, piercings, text, tribal paints or any other markings. The final touch is my artist’s tag. It all takes me anything from two-and-a-half to four hours per artwork.

Does social media affect the type of work you create?

It used to. I would make more aesthetically pleasing artworks that always surrounded the trending topics on social media. But that all changed when I started focusing on a specific portion of the population – LGBTQIA+ of colour. From that point on, social media has not had an effect on my artwork or stopped me from being more ‘obscene’ or vulgar. If anything, the only way social media has affected my work is with regards to its reach and the speed with which I work.

Your Instagram says ‘Vulgar, Feminist, Surreal, Unapologetic art’ – could you elaborate on how these words define you as an illustrator?

Vulgarity and nudity have always been the ideal aesthetic to me. Feminist is how I was raised and how I remain living. Surreal is defined as being ‘bizarre’ and I am neither ordinary as an illustrator nor as a person. I have a firm love for being surreal. I’m a very unapologetic, especially when it comes to empowering myself or my group of people. I have no concern as to how people feel about the nudity and the queer content of my artworks. I am very unapologetic about my attempts to represent those who don’t exist in mainstream or ‘underground’ art in a beautiful and empowering way. Living unapologetically does not mean ‘living without shame’, we need shame as it keeps us in line and aware of what is okay and what isn’t. Living unapologetically means ‘living without fear’ and that is the one thing I want to push onto those I represent through Illustration. Sexuality and gender identity are strong themes in several of your artworks.

As a South African queer illustrator, what message do you hope your audience to receive pertaining to these topics?

I’d like my audience to understand that they are deserving. Deserving of being depicted in their natural and beautiful glory. That there is more to them than what the mainstream media will ever say. I’d like to understand their aesthetic and how powerful their narrative is, even on paper. I’d like them to see my efforts in trying to make us and our images familiar, but never basic. I’d like them to see that in order to get things done right, we sometimes have to do it ourselves rather than waiting for the world to grow up and see our magic; that we are here to dominate all spaces from which we have been erased and kept out of for far too long. Our voices are louder than you think.

‘Facing your inner demons and taking control of your happiness and existence as a black queer is not the easiest thing to do and a lot of us are still in the process of doing that. But once you do, despite what people say, you will feel yourself grow a few inches, I swear to the Universe. It’s so liberating.’

What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome to get to a point where you express yourself and your art so freely?

Finding my worth as an artist, as a young artist and as a black LGBTQ artist was the biggest obstacle. I found myself treating myself like the world treated me. I never thought I could be as good as I am now, never thought I’d be celebrated or accepted – it didn’t feel possible. I lived in an odd state of consistent fear, but eventually, I realised that it’s no way to progress. You will never step outside of your comfort zone if you keep telling yourself it’s going be effortless. Admitting to my parents that I was transgender and having them accept me was the biggest breath of fresh air this year (2018). Facing your inner demons and taking control of your happiness and existence as a black queer is not the easiest thing to do and a lot of us are still in the process of doing that. But once you do, despite what people say, you will feel yourself grow a few inches, I swear to the Universe. It’s so liberating. I don’t see myself having any obstacles now unless I make them myself.

What message do you have for other African queer creatives who might fear being ridiculed for expressing themselves as intimately as you do?

The best advice I can give you is: if you are worried about what other people will think about you, then stop thinking about them for a moment and think about you. Your will and worth are stronger than their words. Remember, your comfort zone isn’t the same as your safe zone. Always remain safe because you are the most important figure in this process, but don’t allow yourself to get comfortable with a certain arrangement – ‘get out of your comfort zone’. We are never sure about how people will react to us, so if you are worried, then make sure you are safe if you’re going to take that step of letting people know. But have no fear, show no remorse about telling the art world who you are. You do not and will not (ever!) stand alone.

‘The same goes for the attitude towards woman creatives. Our experience, regardless of the route it takes in our art, whether it’s black queer orientated or black womxn orientated, etc, will always be the black experience. Why? Because we are black and experiencing experiences. It’s that simple.’

What is your opinion of the status quo of the African creative climate, and is there anything that you would like to see changed?

A change in how people police the content black artists can produce is something I would love to see transform. I have had people come up to me and ask me to do art that’s ‘less LGBTQIA+ and POC orientated’ because ‘I would also like to see myself in your art’. I have had a person say my art won’t get far because it’s ‘too obscene’ while looking at an illustration of two masculine bodies making out. I have had white people tell me they want to support me but I am too ‘against white people/heterosexual people’. I have had older male creatives tell me that my art doesn’t speak to the black experience and that I should start producing content that speaks to black people, ‘like taxi ranks, slum areas, men at work, women with their breasts out in traditional attire, you know? Black people things’. It’s wrong on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin. The policing of queer African and African creative’s content is literal discrimination (literal homophobia and racism). We need to stop being targeted to ‘water down’ or change our content so that it makes those who aim to erase us feel more comfortable and represented and helps them to remain on their pedestals. The same goes for the attitude towards womxn creatives. Our experience, regardless of the route it takes in our art, whether it’s black queer orientated or black womxn orientated, etc, will always be the black experience. Why? Because we are black and experiencing experiences. It’s that simple.

Tell us more about your work as a DJ and the types of music you like to play.

My existence as a DJ (DJ Qing) has been a short one and I really hope it develops into a path I can explore alongside my Illustrator existence. Being multi-dimensional is the ideal form I would like for myself as a creative. It’s mostly centred around hip-hop and rap (old and new). I love watching my queers dance and have fun dancing and a dancefloor full of POC queer bodies in motion is one from the Gods, so I aim to play music that allows that to happen.

What are you working on right now?

I have merch underway and I’m currently working on a mural at Neighbourgoods Market in collaboration with Sunday Edition ZA @sundayeditionza.

Where can people buy your work?

I have taken the firm decision to no longer sell prints and I work on a commission basis. All posted work is solely used to build my portfolio. If prints are sold, there will only be a limited supply and no prints will be redistributed. However, if anyone would like to get hold of me or access my content – follow me on Instagram @khanyathedesigner or email me at kkhanyathedesigner@gmail.com. Message me with any queries and we can make magic!

2019-08-20T11:26:23+00:00
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