Dumisani Radebe with Mohau Modisakeng

Mohau Modisakeng

19 November 2012 at 15:02

Newcastle Creative Network’s Dumisani Radebe speaks to Mohau Modisakeng

1986 sees Soweto give birth to yet another cosmic force. It is the colourful multi-lingual streets of Meadowlands where hails this crafty, vigilant and humble fellow. Mohau Modisakeng takes us through his first public art installation, the second art-piece at the Newcastle Mall.

After completing his matric in 2004, Mohau went and did graphic design at Greenside Designs, from 2005 to 2006. This was before deciding finally that fine art was what he had to do. “What really kicked me into art was that fortunately enough, I got a chance to go to London, through an arts project that was administered by the department of education in 2004”, said Mohau. Immediately after that was when he went to do the graphic design course, where he says was mentored by Jane Alexandra. Modisakeng completed that and went on to do his masters at the UCT.

When I asked about the piece he was putting up in the Newcastle Mall, he pointed out firstly that the piece is untitled, and maintains that he never titles his artwork. The sculpture does however resemble a shirt button that has been broken into two uneven pieces, overlapping to also form what resembles the shape of a shield. He says this is to sort of reflect on Newcastle’s battle history and it’s striving in the clothing & textile industries.

As we mentioned that this is Mohau’s first public art-piece, commissioned by a company called Zenprop. “Two other artists submitted proposals to do a piece here but luckily mine was chosen”, says Modisakeng humbly.

“Mohau mentioned that the hardest time he found in the creation and production process of this piece was him having to work from a warehouse instead of a studio. He says this was costly and unsettling; the travelling and time consumed doing so. “This was rather de-motivating”, he says.” 

Modisakeng also informs artists who take their work seriously should try by all means to seek technical advice when working on large scale projects such as the one we have here today. It is always wise plan ahead for installations and such.

In trying to know more about the field of art one practices or would love to practice, Mohau emphasises that education should be amongst ones highest priorities, simply because education makes one aware of a global platform, hence a global way of thinking. For an artist to really kick it off the ground, they need to constantly exhibit their work, they have to be everywhere trying hustle for a spot of anything- for nothing ironically. This helps an artist know develop relationships with his audience as he grows. “Artists must build their own network and think bigger than what is already there.” says Mohau. He let us know that he has always imagined his work on a broader scale, hence having to gather all research about arts events, festivals & exhibitions- to use to his advantage.

My main motivation is reaching people from cross backgrounds, mostly my own and portraying to them how broad they can really take it. I also try to make conversation with people who are really interested in art as a whole and can relate to the messages being portrayed.

He also says he believes that art is a language, and having young black people interested in conversing on more than just a social level and on a an open platform. “Basically we need to develop visual culture into a language that can be easily understood, and create platforms in which to speak it”.

We end our long day in the sun under the shade created by the newly erected ‘untitled’ sculpture by Mohau Modisakeng from Meadowlands, Soweto. Who would like to inform us that he will be setting up a communal studio for artists to reach easily and be able to stay over if need be; this will help artists from far apart to be able to work in the same space. He will also be hosting his first solo show, where people can come and view a collection of his work.


Mohau Modisakeng outside the Newcastle Mall, at the Installation of his sculpture.

Mohau Modisakeng outside the Newcastle Mall, at the Installation of his sculpture.