Sunday, May 19

Soweto heart art

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Talented graffiti artist attributes his success to Nelson Mandela’s old neighbourhood.

Like many Orlando West homes on the streets of one of South Africa’s most famous places, Soweto, the home of accomplished graffiti artist Rasik Green is a three-roomed semi-detached; the vibrant neighbourhood helped shape the man and his artistic future.

As creative genius behind Joburg’s newest graffiti installation, Jovendorsburg, Green attributes his inspiration to his neighbourhood.
Born and raised in the place he now calls home helped mould his feel for the city and its residents; he says Soweto life was a great influence on his style of street art. A simple kitchen, study and bedroom are filled with books, comics and graphic references.
Green keeps his hats and sneakers on show and paint canisters give a clue to his occupation.
Green says graffiti was always a first love. Picture: Mathews Baloyi/ANA Pictures
He spends most of his time in the home office, where his tools of the trade are neatly stacked and await use once the initial design has been put to paper. Even though his favourite colour is green, his bed linen is a crisp white.
When he has time, he likes to cook-up an Italian storm, making pasta and sauce in his compact kitchen space. The brick house is situated near the Ubuntu Kraal; other artists call the same street home.
Green, 36, has immersed himself in the Soweto lifestyle to find inspiration for his art and collaborated with another artist on a local street art piece just up the road from his home. He also painted a Tuk Tuk forlocal vendors.
Green in Vilakazi Street in Soweto next to the Tuk Tuk he painted for a local vendor. Picture: Mathews Baloyi/ANA Pictures
“There’s a lot of history here. Up the road is where Nelson Mandela lived and the Hector Pieterson memorial is close by.” Known in the graffiti world as “Mr Ekse”, he works as a graphic designer most days, but when the opportunities arise, he dons his overalls and braves the scaffolding.
The Newtown piece is a monster art installation of a woman “with the city coming out of her head”, as Green describes it.
The image greets shoppers at the Newtown Junction and pictures a woman carrying a basket with iconic city motifs spilling out above her. Commissioned by the shopping centre, the street art augments the feel of the neighbourhood – vibrant and colourful.
Green describes the picture as a direct response to the environment and an ode to the many female vendors who spread out their wares on the pavements and feed the commuters, workers and travellers.
“The women I represent in the picture are the ones who surround us all, the Mothers of Joburg.”
Green’s Newtown artwork features a woman with the city coming out of her head. Picture: Dees Harila
Green’s love for art is evident in the many books on art and the history of art. He also collects African literature and biographies about African leaders.
He studied art and design after school at college and finished his education with the Artist Proof Studio, where he became adept at printmaking. Green has a girlfriend in the Mother City, so he commutes between Cape Town and Jozi, where most of his work is found.
Green says he was a child of the 1980s and 1990s, a generation which influenced him.
“I grew up with that hip-hop environment and if I wasn’t going to become a dancer or a DJ, then art it would be. Graffiti was always one of my first loves,” says Green, adding he always had a talent for art. In demand around the country, Green is often travelling, but he says his roots will always be in the historic suburb of Orlando West.
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