We speak to the Johannesburg based storyboard artist, illustrator and animator about his journey as a creative, work and being both an educator and creative practitioner.
CN: Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
Mogau Kekana: I am Mogau Kekana. I'm a Storyboard artist/ illustrator and lover of all things color, graphics and creative…
CN: Take us through your creative journey from when u started to now.
Mogau Kekana: I’ve been into art since Primary school and later pursued it further in high school (The National School of the Arts). I studied Multimedia at UJ faculty of Art Design and Architecture (FADA) where I majored in Video and animation. Soon after Varsity, I taught digital Arts for about year.
CN: Oh great. How was the transition from school to being a lecturer?
Mogau Kekana: Twas pretty interesting going from being a recipient of information to being a provider of it, especially in the context of distributing knowledge and I guess understanding. For the most part, teaching allows you to understand your craft in a different way than you would have as a student. It gave me no choice but to be more analytical, I had to look at each part of a working process and find a way to explain it in the most effective way possible to create better understanding.
CN: It's always interesting to see a different view of work. What are your thoughts on the state of creative education?
Mogau Kekana: People are different and have different ways of receiving information. Hence I think creative education is inevitable. At least in the context of teaching in creative ways depending on who or what you're teaching. I'm not sure if I'm answering the question appropriately… The state of creative education... I think it'll still be alive provided there are people looking to learn..and people are always trying to grow themselves and so I think creative education will always be relevant. I think a lot of successful creative people, in general, would not be where they are today without acquiring knowledge and so I think it’s inevitable due to the fact that first of all...education will always be a necessity for whoever wants to broaden their knowledge of whatever it is they are interested in.
I also think that given the contemporary age in which we live. Creativity and innovation are fast becoming the leading departments of the future. And so creative education, as well as collaboration, will definitely propel us onwards.
CN: Talk to me about your work, what messages/stories are you telling and what would you call your style?
Mogau Kekana: I remember in my last year of varsity I wanted to move away from making Pretty pictures. Digital Arts, for the most part, belongs to a whole collective of artists who love to create fantastical, imaginary renditions of images mostly inspired by both Eastern and western approach to drawing and storytelling. I want my work to reflect my experiences as an African youth based on the southern parts of this continent residing in Hillbrow.
There are a lot amazing black Artists who were raised in All these townships around the country...but I've never encountered one who was from Hillbrow and as a consequence, I've never really seen a lot of interpretations of my neighborhood. My most recent works are inspired by this place I grew up in and I guess that should speak to what story I'm trying to tell. Hillbrow doesn't have the best reputation and so I feel like most people are scared of coming in to explore what it has to offer as far as artistic inspiration is involved, so what I'm trying to do is find the beauty in Hillbrow... In many ways, I feel as though all slums are the same but Id like to think that Hillbrow has a certain type vibrancy due to the fact that it is literally home to an amalgamation of the African continent...dude like...everyone is here.
And so in a way that is what I think my style is...it is influenced by a lot of different and vibrant African styles fused with a touch pop culture too....if that makes sense.
CN: How has your work been received?
Mogau Kekana: There's a always positive feedback from people..., especially on social media...
CN: What is the role of technology in your work and also on creativity?
Mogau Kekana: On my work...technology plays a huge part because that's where I execute my final renditions.
And on creativity; Technology....especially with all these really cool Wacom gadgets coming out...working becomes more convenient and a whole lot quicker and I guess essentially that's the space where technology is headed. It helps with Convenience as well as efficiency ...and so these attributes are especially great if you are conscientious.
CN: How has social media helped your career?
Mogau Kekana: Social media has given me and other artists a platform of expression and the opportunity to get us exposed to a larger audience. And in doing so, it has allowed me to monetize my craft.
CN: How has the business side of your art been? What are some of the lessons you learned so far?
Mogau Kekana: A lot of lessons have been learned man.... more especially during these last few months I've been freelancing. A lot of the time getting business isn't an issue... I do however think that my initial approach to agreements was uninformed...maybe even naive. I've learned that officiating agreements is important no matter how trusting you might be of the people you work with. Based on past experiences, when responsibilities, expectations, and outcomes are not stipulated in writing...it creates complicated situations amongst people in the end when everyone has to get what they deserve.
I get excited easily, and so there've been times when I took up too many projects at the same time and that really affected my concentration...not to mention the quality of work I produced for clients. There was one time I completely missed a deadline and that really put my client in legal and financial trouble... I really regret doing that. So to make sure this doesn't happen, I only take a certain amount of projects at a time...ones that I know I can manage given the timelines I'm working with. Also, I think it's really important to take on projects that you are really passionate about because that will allow you to produce the best work possible... I find that when you do something you really love, you tend to become more proactive...
I realized that this could also affect my reputation as an artist and could possibly destroy my relationships with people I could work with in future. Also... this industry is too small to burn bridges.
CN: When you were a student and lecturing was there an emphasis on the business of creativity?
Mogau Kekana: Back I varsity we had this class called "professional practice" and for the most part, it taught the business part of creativity. I do however wish that we had talks and interactions with actual designers and artists within the industry. I think that would have given a more practical view of what one could expect in whichever industry they decided to pursue.
But then again, I guess if one is really serious about what they want to do, they will go out and find these artists and designers so they can learn more from them. I'm still learning more about this industry and it helps to surround yourself with people involved in the industry...also, it helps to acquaint yourself with people from other industries because it allows you to expand your knowledge and maybe even find new avenues of business via collaboration...
CN: How important has collaboration and community been to you as a creative?
Mogau Kekana: I haven't done a lot of collaborations but, I think when 2 different streams of creativity come together, for example, illustration and photography, it creates within that combination a new aesthetic...which then becomes a separate community (Illustration photography)... a really good example I've seen of this is work done by @_Christianbale and @African_ginger.
CN: How important has mentorship been in your journey?
Mogau Kekana: Mentorship is helpful due to the fact that it prevents one from making silly mistakes by learning from someone who's had way more experiences. Also mentorship has always opened me up to new opportunities and acquaintances.
CN: As a young creative what are your thoughts on the Joburg creative community?
Mogau Kekana: I think the Joburg creative community is working itself up to become a part of the international community in terms quality of work in all genres. Fashion, Music, Design, Art and in other parts of entertainment and business. We are growing and I can't wait to see how far we get in the next decade.
CN: Who are some of the fellow Creatives you are liking right now?
Mogau Kekana: Sindiso Nyoni, his latest work is legendary, Karabo_Poppy...her style is amazing and "I see a different you", as well as TrevorStuurman...their photography is inspirational.
CN: What do you as a young creative need to make your creative journey better?
Mogau Kekana: I need to expand my horizons and collaborate more... I feel like making this industry accessible to other aspirational creative's will allow for everyone to go further. I think that everyone's journey gets better the more we collaborate and help each other... I know that every individual has something valuable to share and to add to whatever it is that I lack and vise versa. And so when we collaborate we are able to fill the gaps and learn more from each other. Much like the Creative Nestlings Brand suggests...
"want to go fast, go alone. want to go far, go together" - African Proverb
CN: Whats next for you?
Mogau Kekana: I'm currently developing my animation IP...(Chiko) while doing storyboard and illustration designs for Diprente (animation company). I want to work on my own animated feature film and I think that's where I want to take Chiko eventually.
CN: What advice do you have for fellow Creatives?
Mogau Kekana: Do what you love...do what resonates with you. And stay learning.
CN: What does creativity mean to you?
Mogau Kekana: Creativity is individuality. It allows one to be express themselves in the most true fashion possible. When you are yourself...you are creative... I think.
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