10 Apr Graphic Lemons Interview with Kaz
AL: What is art to you?
Kaz: I don’t know chale. I don’t really understand what drives me to pursue it with this much obsession. Sometimes it’s an escape from the world and all its pressures. Sometimes it’s a conduit to channel my emotions through. Sometimes it’s my voice. Sometimes it’s my superpower. At other times I think of it as my survival skill in this new jungle of a world. What I do know is that it’s become an important extension of myself. In less flamboyant terms it’s like a vital organ I can’t do without.
AL: What do you see and feel when creating each piece?
Kaz: Peace. Freedom. Power as well. My ideas are given life when I create and there’s a certain ethereal quality to it all. I know it’s all a result of constant practice but I can’t help being in awe of myself when I work. It’s not always the norm though. When I went commercial I had some very controlling clients who didn’t let me really do art. Creative control is very important to me, otherwise, I’m just a guy who knows how to use a pen or whatever tool the project calls for. Luckily I’ve gotten myself in the right position to quit that shit and create on my own terms
AL: How profound is each piece you create to you and how do you pass messages along with them? What does your art mean to you?
Kaz: Everything I draw or design is precious to me. It doesn’t always have to have special meaning or carry a message because I’ve realised people see things their own way. From their own perspectives and whatever message, I wish to send across will be filtered through their individual lenses. My art as I said earlier, is sometimes an extension of myself and I won’t mince words here I’m arrogant as fuck so what it means to me is, in essence, a pure representation of myself. Even if it’s a portrait of someone I still look at it and see me in there. And that’s usually what it means to me. My little mark on this planets canvas I guess
AL: How do you relate to the world with your art as an African living in the new age?
Kaz: I think I’ll address this first as just ‘an African’. I always noticed the glaring absence of African/Black characters in the art that I grew up on. Comic books, movies, cartoons etc. I enjoyed it all with a little child’s unreserved glee but at some point, I started to feel distant from it all. Uninterested. At that time I didn’t realise what I was doing but I set out to make my art about black people and black characters and it helps that I got to see some really incredible artists who represented themselves and their homes and their traditions in art. As an African in the New Age, I feel an even stronger need to be as loudly African as I can be in whatever I create. We’re literally the world’s first look at Africa’s modern creative side and for me, it’s not just about doing good art it’s about doing “us” art. The rest of the world aside, there’s also the fact that there’s a lot going on at home that needs to be spoken on. Artists like Bright Ackwerh and the Black Narrator comment on politics and do a little social activism through their work. For me it’s more personal, it’s about the often overlooked mental health problems that are being allowed to ruin the lives of countless Africans. I try to let them know that I’m there too and I understand and though I don’t have any words of comfort to offer, here’s a guy with a sword and a big ass pet snake to distract your woes while you gather yourself. Jokes aside, I’m really working on a comic based mental health awareness campaign for mandem. Also, our people in the New Age in spite of how progressive we seem to be have carried over some rather negative views from our forebears and from colonial times. Sexism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, ethnocentrism and all that. I don’t think I’ve done enough or anything at all about that cause I don’t think I have the right to speak on their behalf but I hope to work closely with people who experience these things and lend them my skills as a platform from which they can speak to both our people and the world and affirm their humanity. It’s the only way I see our New Age truly becoming a symbol of change and advancement.
AL: What makes art unique to you as your calling?
Kaz: That’s another question I haven’t found a definite answer to. I remember the first person I saw drawing was an older cousin. He didn’t do anything complex and he showed me how and I mimicked it till I could outdo him in style and all that. When I went to school it became my special attribute. It made me a centre of attraction and for the first time in my childhood, that wasn’t a bad thing. I suppose young me enjoyed that attention and inclusion and kept at it but at some point, I started improving and competing with myself to see what I could do next and now here we are. When I think about it the question isn’t why I chose art, it’s just that I couldn’t find a good enough reason to stop. My pops wanted me to quit though and when I kept at it most people who know that story think I do this to spite him but it never occurred to me that that was a thing that I could do. It’s actually a thing Moebius, who is one of my favourite artists of all time speaks on. He said to cleanse ourselves of all negative energy and even some positive cause in order to truly see the world and add your imagination to it you have to look at it all without any bias. He said it in French though so I’m probably off by a few miles but you catch my drift
AL: How do you balance the commercial life of feeding off your art and creating for artistic value?
Kaz: I try not to play by the same rules as the industry when I create but when I find myself in a situation where I absolutely have to, I try my hardest to maintain my level of quality while functioning on what is essentially an autopilot. Doing what the client wants and not letting my expression take the forefront. It’s not the easiest thing to do for someone as single-minded as myself but I was convinced I had to eat somehow so it worked.
AL: What plans do you have for your craft?
Kaz: I have this vague notion of a nomad artist, with a Wacom Mobile Studio and a single suitcase. There’s another where I’m living in my parent’s house, lots of peace and quiet, being even more reclusive than I am now but allowing other creatives to approach me. The only definite thing in these hazy dreams is my art. Constant creation in whatever medium strikes my fancy. After all, I’m only here cause my art brought me. I never had a valid plan to make myself a noteworthy artist of some repute. All I knew was the work and my love for it so we’ll see where it carries me next.
AL: The unique poster you’d be creating for your interview via Lucid Lemons could you tell me the angle and idea you have behind it?
Kaz: A face with weird shit happening in it. And lemons. That’s like all I thought about when I heard I was to do something for my interview. And just because I can, I think I’ll make it slightly erotic too. In the words of Mafeni; “I hope y’all like getting pregnant”. Or at least a little hot and bothered.
AL: Few words to say to every creative creating art across Africa?
Kaz: Don’t treat this thing as work. Especially if you’re young thinking you gotta be earning off your skills. Just don’t bother yet. Enjoy yourself and create stuff that resonates with you. Also, compare yourself to people who are light-years ahead of you. Competing with your peers is all fine and dandy but you won’t grow as phenomenally till you start giving yourself some real pressure. And while you’re at it keep in mind you can’t be as lit as the legends right away. You will learn and go through the same stuff they went through to get there. Maybe you’ll be faster, maybe you’ll be slow like me but in the end, you will get there.
I’m Kaz. Artist, recluse and occasional drifter.