By Arno Cornelissen
Many students flock straight from high school into the spaces of tertiary education. This is a daunting transition. Luckily, Mook Lion is there to catch and send them on their merry way.
Mookie comes from a family of creatives. His first exposure to working in the public space was through graffiti in 2004. From there, oil paint gripped his attention during his matric year. Still figuring out his place in the world, he went to London to explore graffiti culture.
Afterwards, he found his way to the Durban University of Technology in 2009, where he would begin his mural career, practice political street art, and complete his master’s degree in Fine Art.
Mook Lion explains, “The students taking Fine Art as a major subject also have a theoretical component. This includes an overview of their involvement in the project. They need to understand what street art and mural art entail and what working in a public space means. Also, they need to consider how the image and meaning change once you move your art into the public space. It teaches them how to take their work from the gallery to the public.”
For Shenka Naidoo, working on a mural “is hella intimidating. Painting on a wall is a lot because it’s so visible. But it’s about learning, right?” No doubt. Being the students’ first practical, this project is a big deal. It has exposed them to new ways of making art.
“I love versatility, especially in the world of art,” says Ntando Nogwaba. “Painting wasn’t my thing until we were introduced to this project. I thought, wow! This is big; our first assignment is in public. It’s a challenge, but a good one.”
The creativity that flows from the students onto the wall creates a peaceful atmosphere. You quickly lose yourself in the process of creating a mural. A second-year Fine Arts student, Sive Ntombana, says: “I wish I were in my first year. Everyone is low-key jealous that they couldn’t do something like this in their first year.”
It is a monumental step for these young artists to have their work showcased on one of the busiest streets of Makhanda.
Reflecting on his first-year group, Mookie says, “There are quite a few of us still making it as artists. I remember when I was still a waiter. I spent so many hours there. Sometimes the restaurant is quiet, and you just stand around. I wondered, if I was spending all this time on my own work, imagine how much art I could produce, how far I could go. One way or another, you can make it work.”