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Your Life: Mark Modimola

We chat with the award-winning South African visual artist whose works explore African identity and spirituality. Inspired by nature, history and meeting people from all walks of life, he can often be found journaling or hanging out in his hammock.

By Leigh Herringer
South African visual artist Mark Modimola — photo credit Nel Ranoko

To me, luxury is one of one, handcrafted, original, conscious, investment and care.

A day in my life usually consists of praying and meditation, drinking water or tea, reflection and journaling, processing and organising, exercising or walking. Creating. Laughing. Appreciating.

My last holiday: I visited Rwanda to attend and learn about Umuganda, a national holiday on the last Saturday of every month when it’s mandatory for all citizens to participate in community building. I also visited the Genocide Memorial Museum and learned more about the people and land.

Mark recently took part in the mandatory community service as part of a Rwandan national holiday

My essential travel items: A journal and binoculars. You don’t know when an idea will come or what you’ll see. I usually have a hammock in the car.

My most treasured possession: I went to visit artist Ayanda Mabulu and we ended up having coffee and discussing everything from music, spirituality, creations, philosophy and the future. It was in his studio that he gave me a mask that he would wear during performances, a special item. We were discussing some new work and ideas of identity and he began to collage with this mask, the final piece being a totem. The piece is called Umnombo Ngumthombo, descending from God the source.

A treasured totem mask gifted to Mark by artist Ayanda Mabulu

The work of art that changed everything for me: I entered a design competition for American Express in South Africa, which I ended up winning. It formed part of its branding here, inspired its global applications and has been translated into the only mural on the Keyes Art Mile in Johannesburg. The work was based on nature and the flow of things in Africa.

Mark’s winning design was made into a mural on the Keyes Art Mile in Johannesburg

The artists whose work I would love to have in my home are Harmonia Rosales, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Nene Mahlangu. Their work is powerful and speaks to the energy and stories of women in our time.

Portrait-of-Oshun by Afro-Latino artist Harmonia Rosales

I am reading An Atlas on Southern Africa from 1984  – it’s part of my research for an artwork.

If I could invite anyone to dinner, it would be Miriam Makeba.

The soundtrack to my summer 2023 is Dide O by London-based music group Kokoroko (Dide means get up in Yorùbá).

Kokoroko’s fusion of Afro beat and jazz has a spirited positivity

The best gift I recently received was some advice from a friend on how to invest in my time and myself.

My greatest artistic inspiration comes from nature.

The city I love is Johannesburg. The diversity, wealth and potential are incredible and it really is the centre of Africa right now. I can experience five-star moments, and find a wealth of history in every street and from people with inspiring stories from all over the continent. It is in constant flux where innovation is sparked in its streets and conversations.

To relax and unwind, I listen to music, go into nature, walk and laugh.

My guilty pleasure is Jollof rice –  I wish it was our national dish!

My essential grooming products are coconut oil, essential oils, drinking water and steaming.

One of the most memorable meals I’ve had:  While in Rwanda, I attended a fashion show by renowned designer Moses Turahirwa, the founder of Moshions, a sustainable and experimental heritage brand. Upon meeting him, a friend and I were invited to his home and his mother insisted on feeding us. The meal was stewed beans, plantain and a vegetable noodle dish. It reminded me of home as I love beans and I think I ate half the pot!

“The tone of my work resonates with the spirit of nature and how this manifests in our aspirations of identity, being and purpose as Africans.” Mark Modimola

“My greatest source of inspiration is the spirt of nature “, says Mark

I collect plants; I enjoy seeing them flourish and becoming part of a home space.

In my fridge, you’ll always find half an avocado.

The best advice I’ve been given: Don’t mind the crowd.

Leigh Herringer

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