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Spotlight: Sinenhlanhla '99perspective' Chauke Creates Scenic Illustrations of Black People In Safe Spaces

The South African illustrator is offering feel-good moments during lockdown with his 21-day portrait series.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and more who are producing vibrant, original work. In our latest piece, we spotlight Sinenhlanhla "99perspective" Chauke, a South African illustrator and designer, who has worked with brands like Puma and Shekinah Donnell, to name a few. He's currently creating vibrant portraits of young South Africans to boost spirits during lockdown, as part of a 21-day challenge. Read more about the series, as well as the inspirations behind his distinctive illustration style below. Be sure to keep up with the artist on Instagram and Twitter.

Can you tell us more about your background and when you first started painting?

I am a 21-year-old Illustrator and graphic designer, originally from Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. I moved to Cape Town to study Visual Communication and Multimedia at a Friends of Design Academy of Digital Arts. While I was still a student, I felt that it was time for me to express my perspective through content curation as well as my style and aesthetics—through all forms of illustration, whether in commercial or editorial work. Hence the name '99 Perspective.'

What are the central themes in your work?

The central themes of my work often involve characters in safe spaces, interior environments and more. I often refer to my illustrations as scenes because they feel like a moment or screenshot taken from a film. The core theme that I always stick to is portraying black men and women in spaces that are true to them. I'm also inspired by interior design and architecture. I try to bring that same aesthetic into my portraits and other commercial illustrative work.


Illustration by Sinenhlanhla "99perspective" Chauke

How did you came to pursue a creative path?

I remember in high school sitting in my Physical Science class and completely breaking down and walking out because I was extremely unhappy and depressed because I was doing something I thought was expected of me as a black child, and something that would make sure I secured a stable career as a Psychologist, Doctor, Lawyer, etc. So I changed subjects into fine art and walked away with a distinction. It proved to me that I was born a creative and that creativity was in my blood.

What's the idea behind the 21-day portrait challenge?

The 21-day challenge came to me as I was traveling on a hot sunny day from Joburg to Nelspruit before South Africa's lockdown. I was thinking of a way I could increase visibility for my work and garner attention for my brand while simultaneously making people excited and positive during this pandemic of COVID-19. The 21-day challenge was developed and over 200 people entered and it helped me grab people's attention since a lot of people are at home. This challenge has also helped my development and helped me improve my workflow overall. I've started to become more confident in my work and happier, as it has made me smile from ear to ear whenever somebody receives their portrait and it genuinely makes their day so much better.

What's next on your journey as an artist?

The Journey has only just begun to be quite honest. Through using social media, specifically Twitter and Instagram, I have managed to build a following and have eyes on my brand. It's super important for me to always upload quality work and take time to perfect all the work that I do so that [it can be a] testament to my core values.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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