We sat down for a chat with the multitalented artist, Modise Sepeng at Bioscope in Maboneng and spoke about his journey as an artist.

Modise also known as Black Dice is an African born Graphic designer, art director and illustrator. He is based in Johannesburg; born and bred in Alexandra Township. He has a keen eye for detail, a strong technical ability and a boundless enthusiasm for Africa, love, life, design, illustration and photography.

The name Black Dice comes from his days as a poet. He used to host poetry sessions for about two years in Alexandra and they matured into being creative sessions. However, Modise took on his childhood nickname Muthiboy which he got because of his mother. Who is a healer (Sangoma) and the people in his Township would call him that. He later got to understand his mother’s calling and what it held. He embraces where he come from through his artworks. “I believe that through my artwork, I’m healing people“. In high school he meet two guys who were Imagination lab graduates.  After matric, he enrolled at Imagination lab with influence from the two guys. He graduated and was offered a bursary to study brand communication at Vega, “the identity shift of growing up in Alex and being in a white dominated space’’, he ended up dropping out because it was more marketing orientated.  ‘’I have always been obsessed with language and culture and our thoughts and ideas as black people’’, said Modise. He saw art as medicine and in 2012, Sepeng started exploring with art. With his boundless enthusiasm for Africa, his philosophy is that he is black before anything else. Eventually, he branched out to do his own thing, started freelancing for companies he previously worked for. He went on to say that branching out is not a solution for a lot of kids because of the fear of starving while doing what they love. However, we need to understand that you have monetise your ideas and skill.

Understand your value, in order to do that, you have to do things for free, be used and be told that your ideas are not good enough. He said that, ‘’you have to experience that, and that’s the journey of you getting to a point of charging people an x-amount of money because you have been through it all”. We have the mind set and the ideas, we need resources. Modise asserts that what’s key are the ideas and stories we tell, whether the money comes out of our pockets or not, it doesn’t matter because it inspire our kind when these stories come from us.

Negritude

His work adapts liberation heroes like Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela to the current contexts of cool. He is known for his Nubian art, African prints and portraits of African faces with an urban contemporary appeal. Each of his pieces has a post-colonial coast feel. His work reflects on the transitional process of South Africa, and the need to create our own identity through our heritage. He created a color pattern as a representation of African identity. Different shades of melanin. ‘’I wanted to do a series of illustrations, but then it became this identity, this DNA, every time I did something, I always went back to the initial thinking of this is what I wanted to create’’. Negritude republic is a movement not a brand. People can be inspired and create from that.

UMuzi

UMuzi is a creative academy that offers a free year learnership that produces high calibre, entry level digital and creative professionals. It has four departments; strategists, creative, coders and multimedia storytellers. Modise manages the graphic design department. He teaches, coaches and mentors the designers. UMuzi makes sure that they get the students jobs at the end of the year.

Failing means you’re trying, don’t be afraid to do anything. Put you’re self out there and allow people to speak about your work whether good or bad, but most importantly be yourself. Those are few words that Modise has for aspiring designers.