Art Life- Setlamorago Mashilo

The objective of this article wasn’t to brag about our friendship with Setlamorago Mashilo, popularly known as Mash, yet we can’t duck and dive about our relationship with him. We own a sculpture designed by him - which now resides inside the Thesis store. The “Do Not Disturb” door sign is actually a steel sculpture that was showcased at the artist’s first solo show with his gallery Everard Read back in 2018.

So what are we trying to conceive here? Well, it has become a norm for us to celebrate our friends and this post seeks to not only introduce the man to a broader audience but to also highlight his excellence. Like the subject matter that he likes to revisit ‘The Land’, the man is resilient in his pursuit of showcasing his talent in a way he sees it.

We paid the artist a visit at his studio in Constitution Hill. Upon arrival, we are treated to a rare pleasure of seeing Mash clean his studio space. If we are being frank, most artist’s studios are not tidy, you will always find materials, reference points, and unfinished artworks lying around.

The practice of cleaning is a powerful one as inscribed in the Japanese Zen culture it is believed that it helps clean one's spiritual conscience. We wonder if cleaning has the same effect on Mash, a man who seeks to keep himself polished as evident in his clean-shaven head. His studio space has plants, enough natural light and air flowing through it that one cannot help but assume that the need for a clean studio space helps in the formulation of ideas that go into his artworks.

Mash’s interaction and relationship with Johannesburg is one that can be characterized as ambivalent. In an article published in Sunday Times  in 2018 in preparation for his first solo show, he is quoted saying “convenience of Joburg is a lie” and whilst people who are inclined to the city might find this a bit mind-boggling, the truth in the statement lies in the fact that the city is very constricting. The price to space ratio always leaves one in shock. The is no convenience without space and Mash truly understands this as he was born in Ga Molepane, Jane Furse in Limpopo.

Johannesburg can be a prison to our dreams, depending on how we see it. Everyone gravitates towards the city seeking Gold (Johannesburg- The City of Gold) and with all the toiling needed to find gold, dreams evaporate and spirits crash. As an outsider, it is easy to feel lost in the midst of it all. You may constantly feel like your own dreams and aspirations are dwindling, but knowing that you’ve got a support base of friends and people whom you can call family goes a long way.

Mash’s art evokes tender emotions at surface level and it’s only when you start to engage with the artist that you get the narrative of the land and the need for it to be shared - and ultimately letting the land and space be of convenience to everyone who inhabits it.

Images shot by @owasevutta & @buka_andile