Modise Sepeng

Keep the faith, but learn to hustle

Photo: Republic
Words: Edward Kgosidintsi

South African graphic artist and creative entrepreneur Modise Sepeng’s top tips for establishing yourself in the creative industry

Born in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra to a single mother supporting her household as a domestic worker, Modise Sepeng is no stranger to tribulation.

His path to success was jagged and cumbersome, but he made it to his destination by sticking to his vision and refusing to divorce the dream. He now re-imagines brands for a living, giving them an iconic Afro-futuristic flair. 

Here are Sepeng’s tips to navigating the rapid currents of the creative industry…

See the harmony in the chaos

In order to solve creative problems, you need to hone that skill in every facet of your life. It all starts at home. “Growing up in Alex, I was exposed to a collage of cultures, stories and voices. This has always informed my work,” says Sepeng.

Seek the treasure of inspiration in your surroundings. Observe the palettes and motifs of the people, spaces and objects in your environment. This will develop your lens as a designer.

“I always had an imaginative eye,” says Sepeng. “Where others see a trash can, I see a vase of flowers. A good designer sees the inconspicuous beauty in things.” 

Establish your own DNA

The most crucial quality for any prospective designer/illustrator is a unique style. Modise moulded his around an idea: “In the process of establishing my own DNA, I wanted it to stem from the cultural ideology of Afrocentrism.”

It was all about a new way of seeing Africa. “It took me years to define my work and with doing that, I had to study the industry and refine my craft.” 

Modise BlackDice on Twitter

Photo from the first Unplugged Poetry

Always keep learning

Survey the scene before you enter it with guns blazing. “There’s a Zulu proverb that says ‘Indlebe a ina Isivalo’, which translates as ‘An ear doesn’t have a lid’.

In other words: never stop listening, because there is no end to the knowledge you can absorb in this life,” explains Sepeng. Success is a lifelong research assignment. “I study everything and everyone I encounter, it keeps me growing.” 

“there is no end to the knowledge you can absorb in this life”

Find a role model

Sepeng stresses the importance of mentorship. “Shadow someone who’s a success story in your dream field,” he recommends. “See your possible future self and spend a day in their shoes – it will do wonders for your motivation.” 

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06 2016 The Red Bulletin

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