Last Wednesday saw the fourth episode of the rapidly growing Design Share Party event. Started and run by graphic designer Neo Rakgajane, Design Share Party is a platform for creatives in the Johannesburg area to come together once every month to share and to celebrate their craft. The format is simple—three creatives present their work to an audience of refreshingly eager like-minded types. The focus of the presentations is mostly on process, but the format is flexible enough for presenters to take things anywhere they like, which they inevitable always do.
Last Wednesday’s lineup was quite stellar. Celebrated Cape Town-based artist/illustrator Loyiso Mkhize kicked things off; he was followed by Joburg design duo Jana & Koos; and Internet sensations I See A Different You closed proceedings.
Loyiso does illustrations for the Supar Strikas comic strip by day and creates eye-popping, stop-you-in-your-tracks portraits of heroic Africans by night. His larger than life treatment of the people of the continent struck a cord with the audience, as evidenced by the outpouring of love and admiration directed at him during the Q & A session at the end of his presentation—one woman amusingly offered to be his muse! The people in his work look bold, wise and knowledgeable, evoking fantastical dreams of a long lost African renaissance of great artists and scientist. His latter work, the Superheroes series, is inspired by the mythical story of an ancient African tribe of super beings that is reawakened when a mysterious star linked to their past reappears in the night sky.
There's something pleasantly unsettling about Mkhize's work though, if that makes any sense. We can't help feeling that it teases out a yet-to-be-fulfilled yearning for real-life authentic African heroes, in him and in the general African psyche. Or perhaps even in anyone else who cares, for that matter. We have to wonder, is that what keeps him up at night? It certainly is, in our case.
Jana & Koos are proudly alternative. When others zig, they zag. Take their work for Simon and Mary, for instance. When the client asked for a logo, they presented an articulated package of the story of the brand in the form of a video instead. Sometimes, they say, a logo doesn’t do the brand justice. Their photographic work for Choo Cha customisable baby pacifiers is just as intriguing—portraits of little ones with loads of attitude. The premise being that just because babies can’t speak for themselves doesn’t mean they don’t have personality. Duh. It’s early days still, but we believe if they can stay true to the unbeaten path they’ve chosen, we’re bound to hear a lot more from Jana & Koos. The future, after all, belongs to the brave.
I See A Different You (see their TEDxSoweto 2012 talk here) is a trio of creatives from Soweto who photograph their African selves the way they want the world to see them. They are so big on the net, they've become a meme—there's already more than a few cats online and offline aping their vibe. But then again, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So it's all good. Their presentation was mostly a collection of wisdoms from a remarkable journey that has seen their work take them as far as Tokyo, Paris, Dakar, Zanzibar and Maputo. They've also recently expanded their brand from just photography to now include film. ‘Warchild’—their first film project—will be released in the next few weeks. The project is a two-minute long documentary about a boxer from Soweto who is pushed by his surroundings to get to the top, inside and outside the ring. If these three downright fantastic guys—Innocent, Justice and Vuyo—can keep spreading their inspirational message of self-pride, humility and excellence, it won't be long before they go fully viral. Then they will surely take over the world.
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