Creative illustrator, street artist, and graphic designer Karabo Poppy Moletsane needs no introduction. From a ground-breaking, futuristic collaboration with Nike to illustrating the International Women’s Day Google doodle, the Johannesburg-based creative genius has earned her stripes. Being multifaceted, Karabo Poppy has won three Loerie Awards throughout her illustrious career. Her work has been recognized as part of a Grammy-nominated music video for “Makeba” by French singer and artist Jain. Poppy was also the first Black woman artist to paint the Art Wall in the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in California.
In 2015, the decorated creative turned her passion for visual artistry into a business and founded “Mother Tongue-Creative House”, now trading under her name, Karabo Poppy. Karabo Poppy is also responsible for illustrating the famous “Soweto Towers” landmark.
Karabo Poppy aims to inspire a young generation of innovative visual artists through contemporary African aesthetics. Moziak caught up with her to discuss her collaboration with Halls, creative inspiration, and Breathing Space Masterclasses.
Tell us about your amazing collaboration with Halls?
Karabo: Collaborating with Halls is something I’ve always wanted to do. We’ve been working together for quite some time but wanted to change things up a bit.
There were always all these questions that I tried my best to answer, but they were so many; it was impossible to answer everyone about their unique situation each time. So I was always thinking of maybe a mentorship to reach out to as many people as I can and to share the knowledge I have acquired. While I was busy thinking of ways to do that, funny enough, Halls hit me up.
How do you manage to stay inspired to create?
Karabo: I think because it is the only thing I know how to do. Growing up, I was a creative child. My parents say I was always drawing while other kids were playing outside. It has always been a part of me. I have seen the impact it has on people’s lives. Like I said in my talk, artists are needed so that a cultural identity doesn’t disappear. Our past and exploitation have been taken from us, and we are replenishing that. We are pretty much on a journey to fix certain things that history has displaced. So, it is pretty much the only thing I know how to do, and I love doing it because I can see the impact it has. I have seen the results, and because they are so good, I can’t help but keep creating.
What are you hoping to find in the mentees you select?
Karabo: A group of people open to growing and learning no matter what form the lessons come in, not only from me but from each other and for them to be inspired and become mentors themselves. I think that is the key to reaching as many people as possible – help grow as many people as possible. It’s a funny analogy, but it’s almost like a lump of coal. I want this desire to mentor to be infectious. I want it to be as infectious as possible. When one person starts and infects seven people from there, those seven people will do the same (actually, I’m going to use this to inspire instant infection). So, those other seven people can inspire seven more people. I think that kind of growth will help us move faster to where we want to go in the creative industry.
Why is it important for the Halls Breathing Space Masterclasses to be held?
Karabo: I think it is important to have these masterclasses because they provide knowledge. It is learning something quickly that would have maybe taken much longer. I think a lot of people pay a lot of money for this kind of knowledge, and it is necessary – in a sense – that it provides faster growth for people and offers opportunities to ask questions where you can have an industry expert answering you.
What do you think the next generation of creatives needs the most?
Karabo: Seeing other people that are able to do it that look like them. My parents always told me that kind of success within art isn’t really reserved for us. “We are just normal people from the Vaal, where there are not enough resources or a lot of money.” Me getting international recognition and success for what I’m doing shows that it is possible, and I think what the youth needs are more examples.