Digital Artist In Cape Town Celebrates Women Of Color With An Incredible New Series

Get to know Cape Town-based illustrator Obakeng Moroe.

When Cape Town-based graphic designer and illustrator Obakeng Moroe goes record shopping he's thinking more about the cover than the music. He'll often buy albums based purely on the artwork. Snoop Dogg's Doggy Style, GZA's Liquid Swords, and Erykah Badu's New Amerykah were all bought this way. It's a telling indication of where his priorities are.

Moroe has recently been sharing digital illustrations in which he rethinks social media images of musicians—the likes of Ibeyi, Nonku Phiri, Sade, Monique Bingham and more—on his Facebook and Behance pages.

“[Some] are just images of women with interesting looks that caught my eye," he tells Okayafrica. Others are musicians and friends he admires.

“The true inspiration behind why I picked up the stylus is the excellent work that my friend and fellow illustrator David Tshabalala created with his Run The World instabition. "I truly think women, more so women of color, need to be celebrated more and admired for who they are, how powerful they are and can be. Big ups to David for pioneering that illustration movement in my eyes."

Moroe studied graphic design and sound engineering. He did a basic illustration course as part of his sound design course. He's had an interest in illustration since primary school, where he was, in his own words, “the kid that made money from drawing diagrams for other kids in science class."

His inspiration came from what he was exposed to as a child. “I grew up watching cartoons and I was always interested in the different styles of caricature," he says. “From 80s' style Captain Planet and Marvel heroes illustrations to late 90s' Dexter's Laboratory and Grim & Evil."

He only started experimenting with digital illustrations when he was introduced to a digital design tablet at, where he works as a graphic designer. “I guess my young illustrator self was waiting for that moment to come back," he says.

Moroe grew up in Bloemfontein in the Free State province. He only moved to Cape Town about two years ago for his job. “I've always had a love for Cape Town though," he says. “I guess all creatives do, with the city being what it is. In 2012 when I was here on holiday I said a little prayer at the top of Signal Hill asking for an opportunity to live here and now look at God."

Moroe says he's not trying to make a deep statement with his work. “I mostly just focus on creating things I really enjoy or that I consider being meaningful, interesting or beautiful and I just add my unique flair to it." He just likes appreciating, collecting and making “nice things".

“I'm into aesthetics, if you will. People will take from my work what they will. I just do it because it's an emotional outlet, a talent and an extension of me beyond my physical existence."

Apart from graphic design and illustration, Moroe is also into photography. He considers himself an event photographer. “Before anything else I'm a musician first," he says. “What really got me into everything that I have an interest or have a talent in today is music. Though I haven't been deeply involved in the music industry for some time now it remains the center of my world. I was, and still am, somewhere deep inside me, a producer, emcee and vocalist. I released two independent albums a few years ago."

Moroe used to host a radio show called The Corner on Kovsie FM campus radio. He's also a co-founder of a now-defunct monthly music session called The Dojo, which took place in the Free State a few years ago. The session hosted non-mainstream artists such as Miss Nthabi, Mawe2, Reason and more.

Keep up with Obakeng Moroe on Behance and Instagram.

Sabelo Mkhabela is a writer from Swaziland, currently based in Cape Town. He also drops award-winning tweets as @SabzaMK.

Image courtesy of the artist.

In 'Aba Women Riot' Nigerian Artist, Fred Martins, Reinterprets a Groundbreaking Moment In African History

In a new series of prints, the artist celebrates 'the women who lend their voices and stood strong against the oppression of Africans.'

March marks Women's History Month, and for African women, one event that epitomizes the will and tenacity within our community is the Aba Women's Riot, also known as The Women's War of 1929, in which thousands of predominantly Igbo women in eastern Nigeria mobilized to challenge British colonial rule and the barriers placed on women's civic life.

This paradigm-shifting moment in history is the center of the latest series from Nigerian visual artist Fred Martins, who began conceptualizing "Aba Women Riot" in 2019, while reflecting on the invaluable contributions women have made throughout history. "I reflected on the power of femininity and how it has affected history on every stage and era of human civilization," said the artist in a statement.

Keep reading... Show less
"Zion 9, 2018" (inkjet on Hahnemuhle photo rag)" by Mohau Modisakeng. Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

South African Artist Mohau Modisakeng Makes Solo NYC Debut With 'A Promised Land'

The artist will present the video installation 'ZION' and other works centering on the "global history of displacement of Black communities" at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in Brooklyn.

Renowned South African visual artist Mohau Modisakeng presents A Promised Land, his latest solo exhibition, opening at Brooklyn's Jenkins Johnson Gallery this month. This marks the New York debut of Modisakeng's ZION video installation, based on the artists's 2017 performance art series by the same name. It originally debuted at the Performa Biennial.

"In ZION the artist deals with the relationship between body, place and the global history of displacement of Black communities," reads a press release. "There is an idea that all people are meant to belong somewhere, yet in reality there are millions of people who are unsettled, in search of refuge, migrating across borders and landscapes for various reasons."

In addition to the video, the show also features seven large-scale photographs that communicate themes of Black displacement. From 19th century Black settlements in New York City, which as the press release notes, were eradicated to clear space for the development of Central Park, to the scores of Africans who have faced conflict that has led them to life as refugees in foreign lands.

Keep reading... Show less
Justice Mukheli. Courtesy of Black Major/Bongeziwe Mabandla.

Interview: Bongeziwe Mabandla's New Album Is a Calm Meditation On Relationships

We speak with the South African artist about his captivating new album, iimini, love cycles, and the unexpected influence of Bon Iver.

"I've been playing at home for so many years and pretending to be having shows in my living room, and today it's actually happening," Bongeziwe Mabandla says, smiling out at me from my cellphone as I watch him play songs on Instagram Live, guitar close to his chest.

Two weekends ago, Mabandla was meant to be celebrating the release of his third album, iimini, at the Untitled Basement in Braamfontein in Joburg, which would no doubt have been packed with some of the many fans the musician has made since his debut release, Umlilo, in 2012. With South Africa joining many other parts of the world in a lockdown, those dates were cancelled and Mabandla, like many other artists, took to social media to still play some tracks from the album. The songs on iimini are about the life and death of a relationship—songs that are finding their way into the hearts of fans around the world, some of whom, now stuck in isolation, may be having to confront the ups and downs of love, with nowhere to hide.

The day before his Instagram Live mini-show, Mabandla spoke to OkayAfrica on lockdown from his home in Newtown about the lessons he's learned from making the album, his new-found love for Bon Iver, and how he's going to be spending his time over the next few weeks.

Keep reading... Show less
Lueking Photos. Courtesy of emPawa Africa.

Interview: GuiltyBeatz Proves He's Truly 'Different'

The Ghanaian producer talks to us about his debut EP, Different, the massive success of "Akwaaba," producing for Beyoncé and more.

GuiltyBeatz isn't a new name in the Ghanaian music scene. A casual music fan's first introduction to him would've likely been years ago on "Sample You," one of Mr Eazi's early breakout hits. However, he had scored his first major hit two years before that, in the Nigerian music space on Jesse Jagz' and Wizkid's 2013 hit "Bad Girl." In the years to come, the producer has gone on to craft productions for some of Ghana's most talented artists.

In the years to come, the producer has gone on to craft productions for some of Ghana's most talented artists, having worked with the likes of Efya, Pappy Kojo, Sarkodie, R2Bees, Stonebwoy, Bisa Kdei, Wande Coal, Moelogo and many more over the last decade. The biggest break of the talented producer's career, however, came with the arrival of his own single "Akwaaba".

In 2018, GuiltyBeatz shared "Akwaaba" under Mr Eazi's Banku Music imprint, shortly afterwards the song and its accompanying dance went viral. The track and dance graced party floors, music & dance videos, and even church auditoriums all around the world, instantly making him one of Africa's most influential producers. Awards, nominations, and festival bookings followed the huge success of "Akwaaba." Then, exactly a year later, the biggest highlight of his career so far would arrive: three production credits on Beyoncé's album The Lion King: The Gift.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox