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Art, Graf

BABOONS IN BABYLON

by Samora Chapman / 17.12.2014

Durban street artist, Mook Lion, recently travelled to the land of the great mountain to take part in a workshop on gender, violence and visual activism. The workshop was facilitated by Dr Kylie Thomas, a lecturer in the English Dpt at Stellenbosch University, who recently published the book Impossible Mourning: HIV/AIDS and Visuality after apartheid.

While there, he took the chance to get his hands dirty – pasting up some baboons in amongst the urban sprawl.

“The message is not very specific,” he said. “It’s more like an artwork that can be read in many ways, so it’s up to the public to interpret it how they wish. Ideally people will talk about it and think about it. If I had to motivate the work, I’d say it’s about the competition for space in Cape Town. The spaces that wild animals are able to inhabit are dictated by those with money and power. The baboons have become a nuisance to humans, and there’s all sorts of policies about how to deal with them. Similarly, those with money and power are able to control the spaces people inhabit too. All the laarney residential areas are close to the mountain, whereas all the poor live out on the flatlands.”

Mook added that the animals are interesting and fun to paint. “I also dig them ‘cos they’re troublesome… they’re considered menaces!”

Mook Lion connected with his schoolfriend, filmmaker Meekaaeel Adam, who gave him a space to work, transport and made a short film of the pasting process…

The baboon wheat pastes are a logical progression from the ‘Durban’s Elephants’ project, which focused on the ANC’s interference with public art. It began when Andries Botha’s elephant sculptures at the entrance to the CBD were de-commissioned by the ANC because the elephant was seen as a symbol of the IFP, their political opposition. Mook created elephant wheat pastes and murals all over the city as a form of protest against political interference with public art. His work also has an environmental spin – to bring attention to the power and importance of nature.

“I’d like say thanks to Jibreel and Meekaaeel Adam for making the project possible – letting me take over their kitchen as a workspace, and helping me out in any way they could,” said Mook, now back on the tropical mosquito coast.

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*Images/artwork © Mook Lion
*Video © Meekaaeel Adam

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