In Search of an African Aesthetic: Karabo Poppy.


Of course there are many things, but if there is ‘a thing’ to appreciate, it’s the considerate will of the Semi- privileged black child who realises their art potential and has to choose between art and another career preferred by their parental(s). Most of these creative black kids end up in advertising and Architectural firms creating corporate art, this is not selling out, contrary to popular belief. This is usually mindful consideration and displays an acute understanding of the relationship that exists between happiness and responsibility. I know as I was such an artist,  Karabo Poppy would’ve been one of those artists but her chosen path was that of a reconstructive surgeon as she felt becoming a doctor Should not rob her of her need to constantly make “things” beautiful.

I met with karabo at Father Coffee in Rosebank, this is after a failed attempt at a meeting the previous Friday where, due to broken telephone I ended up at Father Braamfontein and Karabo at Rosebank. We rescheduled and met the following Monday morning, a sunny but breezy Johannesburg 10 am.

The Conversation Started with her curiosity and open day information from Open Window Institute, an arts and digital academy in Gauteng South Africa. It was this curiosity coupled with the informative pamphlets that led her to leave her hometown of Vereeniging in search of a particular Aesthetic. An aesthetic she could only learn about, she felt, if she travelled to a more cosmopolitan setting such as Johannesburg.  Karabo laughs when we speak about her occupation and quotes her brother saying she “plays Pictionary for a living”. “I help entities find relevance in their illustration and graphic design by offering them my version of the African Aesthetic, a modern one as it evolves” she says.

This contemporary African aesthetic is an overarching theme in most of her work. By the way she’s completed work for the Pharell x Woolworths Collaboration, Cotton:on International and a French Musician called Jain. But it is her current gig with LG that landed in my inbox. LG released the stylus 2, a device created with the needs of Creatives in mind… Clockwork media saw it best to let some creatives give the devices a test drive, a very obvious but genius idea. Karabo was one of the chosen Influencers of the LG Stylus Campaign. About the Phone as tool for Creatives I asked Karabo what features of the phone were best suited for the creative life, she praise the quick note function that serves to replace her pen and pad allowing easier transitioning from sketch to computer. She added, this way the ideas don’t get lost in the seemingly millions of papers on her desk.

Karabo Poppy has come a long way since being introduced to graphic design in Matric, the 24 year old has gone on to Co-Found Mother Tongue Creative House, a design And Illustration Agency. She attributes some of her successes to her time (3 years + honours) spent at the Open Window Institute and the various mentors she has had. She does acknowledge the need for more black female illustrators and graphic designers but is adamant that young girls attending primary and high school need to be made aware of such opportunities existing in their formative year. This is why she continues to work with some high schools in Vereeniging, bringing exposure to the creative industry in an effort to awaken the artist in the young minds, as that open window presentation did for her during her matric year.

In creating what we call the creative economy, there will be much support needed from already established industries and economies. If we are to rewrite future history books, we would need to be capturing correctly the aesthetic of this time and presenting it carefully as close to the experienced truth as possible, and that too requires dedicated and skilled creatives. These skills need to be groomed early. This is why collaboration between business and the arts needs to be made obvious, for years artists have helped business’ to be appealing to the consumer, without much acknowledgement (ie: we still don’t know the artist who illustrates all our money, lol)

It is indeed beautiful, Commendable and inspiring for future generations to see this boom in support of creativity from all these corporate brands. Technology and other companies are creating commercial devices with the needs of Creatives in mind… welcome to the 21st Century. It serves as an acknowledgment of sorts, a nod of approval towards the often forgotten about hard labourers in front of their computers screens and quicknote enabled smartphones creating the seen world, while they remained most times acknowledged only by a paycheck. Karabo is a new generation Artist bringing a different twist to the word “hustle” and capitalising on her talent in a digital world. After our meeting, I thought about Rosebank and the future of our creatives, and I wished more of us understood that the true definition of success is finding that perfect balance between happiness and responsibility, and that none of the two should be sacrificed for the other.

Check out Karabo Poppy on the interwebs


This article was written by Working Class Celeb Sfisoatomza for @Conte_magazine.


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