Artists We Love: Viwe Mfaku

WORDS Michaela Stehr IMAGES Supplied

We chat to local artist Viwe Mfaku about his latest creative endeavour – Isintu Afro Sci-Fi and what his inspirations and creative processes were for this vibrant exhibition.

Tell us about the notion of Afro-Futurism?

Afro-Futurism is a well-documented art movement that ranges from fantasy-inspired work to science fiction. AfroFuturism is an art movement that seeks to reimagine what Africa could be beyond the current reality. I am personally interested in Afro Sci-fi which is a vehicle to counter this corrupted interpretation of what it means to be Black in the 21st century. As the creator of this art movement, he has sought to harness and redirect the creative potential of the so-called Dark Continent, to instead use it as a beacon to help illuminate a new way forward.

Where do you see SA and Africa going as design pioneers and artists?

I think South Africa is going to be leading the execution of what is possible in the continent creatively. We are maturing creatively as people and that means there is more demand for more expressions of what Africa can be. We need to compete globally if we want to be taken seriously as we take ourselves. So creativity and design thinking become our great equaliser to achieving greatness in the country and continent.

READ MORE: Local Art Exhibitions: What to See in 2022

Elaborate on some of your favourite characters in your latest exhibition?

I shouldn’t have a favourite, but if I have to choose it is two pieces: Nongqawe (Oil on canvas Humanoid) imagines the consciousness of Nongqawuse uploaded as an OS to a humanoid to redeem/retell her story in the modern-day. The motivation is that we tend to never challenge the history and motivations behind the icons/villians from the past. And the story of Nongqawuse is one that paints any willingness to indulge an external view as selling out one’s traditions…especially for women. External ideas aren’t always bad ideas nor are they always good ones… we need to analyse things critically.

“Thwele iswag” (woman with a collection of the latest sneakers on her head) is really a reframing of a common South African: “sithwele ubunzima” which means “we carry a heavy burden”. The thinking is to encourage a mindset change in how we deal with challenges. I have always had a personal problem with that phrase as it felt like accepting defeat to a struggle or challenge. You have to change your mindset to focus on a positive ignorer to overcome that said challenge. So we need to acknowledge that we have swag in our DNA versus anything less. Also, the subtext is we rely on others to carry themselves with swag till we can carry ourselves with swag independently.

What mediums do you use?

I used Oil on canvas as well as digital illustrations printing on fine art paper. But I’m also comfortable with other mediums, especially line work using fine liners.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I consult and freelance for various clients in an advertising context locally and globally. So I am always in front of a computer or screen of some kind working on a concept for a brand/business problem. I wake up, shower, activated my swag and get to work depending on who I am consulting for till 5 pm. Then I work on some art or fashion designs for my brand IBitso, have a meeting with my team on current projects and progress on the next steps while watching/playing something interesting in the background and then I hit the gym at 10 pm before I sleep around 12 pm…. Obviously eating in-between throughout the day. But my life is really orientated around creating and consuming as much art and coming up with as much innovation as possible. I love it, I lose sleep for it gladly.

READ MORE: Transcending Instinct by Artist Nandipha Mntambo

How do you choose your colour use? Is there symbolism involved?

I like rich warm colours when I’m communicating something urgent or unapologetic. For Isintu it felt important to be deliberately loud in my use of colours as I have often seen African Art tend to live in a very muted space with shades of brown. The art is meant to live in the now and beyond so the colours need to have a place as a backdrop in a Sci-Fi movie set in the continent. It’s 

What plans do you have for the future?

I plan to create more expressions of Isintu Afro Sci-Fi not only as art on canvas but also as practical applications of the art movement in everyday life. I am not a fan of poverty innovation and Isintu Afro Sci-Fi is challenging that sophistication can only exist in the continent as an import. We need to create boogie, sophisticated solutions that people want to live with and the rest of the worst grow frustrated for not having access to them. And then we will take Isintu to the rest of the world.

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