August House


THE beauty about inspiration is that it feeds off who we are. Artists aren’t inspired by the same thing the same way; it’s personal experiences that they’ve gone through which trigger the inspiration into action.

For fine artist Patrick Seruwu, it’s his experiences of growing up surrounded by strong but hurt black women in Masuliita in Wakiso-a small village outside Kampala in Uganda. “There is this connection I have with women. I grew up with a single Mom and three sisters, it wasn’t easy growing up without a father. So I use to hustle with my Mom and sisters, moving up and down selling in the streets,” Seruwu tells me.

It’s a blistering hot summer’s day in Johannesburg, I’m sitting with the man in his work space at August House, room 102. I got to the studio with a tad bit of sweat, but had cooled down in Seruwu’s spacious working space, on the brown leather couch where we have the interview.

A painting by Patrick. Photo supplied

His work is appealingly dark and moves you to engage with the stories that Seruwu draws inspiration from. “My mother taught me how to plat women’s hair. Most of the customers were women and most of the people I worked with were women, so they use to talk a lot about their issues of abuse, so I could relate to that because of how I grew up.”
He witnessed the abuse of his mother, sisters and even neighbours back home in Uganda, so much so he couldn’t talk about it on record and the fear of bursting into tears. His current work is focused on women who were in toxic and abusive relationships, but are trying to move on from their past. He first sketches on the canvass and then uses acrylic paints, but he then washes the work with a brush damp from H2O, which he says represents tears of the victims of abuse.

One of Patrick’s works which is a favourite for many who’ve seen it. Photo supplied

“While doing my art, I try and recall my upbringing, the violence and what women go through. So right now, I relate to what women go through because there are thousands of women who’ve gone through all sorts of abuse, but people don’t know about it because most women keep quiet. I’m trying to bring out the images of women who are trying to recover from all sorts of violence, who wish everything could be washed away or who wish they never existed.”
Seruwu has been living in Joburg for about seven years now, after leaving Uganda to visit a friend here in South Africa for a few months. “When I came here, I saw people on the streets selling and I just told myself that I can also survive here, whatever the condition. I started twisting women’s hair on the street, because I learnt that from back home,” he tells me.

From doing people’s hair on a chair on the side of the road, Seruwu grew his business into a salon in the city. His small business was successful enough for the 32 year-old to buy himself a jalopy. It was through that car that Seruwu got closer to renowned artist and fellow Ugandan, Benon Lutaaya. “Whenever Benon needed to go somewhere, he would call me and I’d drop him off at an art gallery. I started attending exhibitions with him and after the shows, we’d come back here to the studio. I started to love art because I started to associate with artists, visiting their studios and galleries.”

In 2017, while unwinding with his girlfriend he decided to draw his partner on paper. “I started sketching her. It wasn’t a good sketch, but I tried. She appreciated it. I then went and showed it to Benon and he said ‘I see something in you, continue doing it'”. It is telling that his first ever attempt at art, was a drawing of a female.

He continued drawing on paper throughout the year of 2017, during his spare time away from the salon. After months of working on paper and encouragement from Benon, he then started working on canvass later that year.

A depiction of a woman in pain. Photo supplied

He created a page on Facebook, of his work around the same time and immediately received positive responses from people. “I got a couple of invites to show my work at galleries, while someone on Facebook from Nigeria also wanted to buy my work. I got addicted to art, whenever I got time I would sketch or paint.”
His work has been part of a number of group exhibitions including the August House exhibition at Absa Art Gallery, Studio Space group show, Rosebank’s Lizamore & Associates and last year he got an invite from the Cape Town Art Fair.

He’s literally been practicing art for three years and his work has been among some of the country’s best works in the most prestigious art spaces. It’s not often that you meet an artist with such overnight success as Seruwu’s. The average artists will struggle for a couple of years to find their own signature and identity in their work and a few more years to get industry recognition. Seruwu understands that his friendship with Benon has richly helped him acquaint himself with influential people in the industry.

One of Patrick’s current work. Photo supplied

“It means a lot to me, it’s an honour to me. It is determination and working hard, focus and knowing where you want to be and what you want. First of all I never thought I’d be an artist, not even think that I could exhibit in a gallery, but I was determined to improve my technical skills,” Seruwu says.
He’s on the verge of joining a local art gallery as their resident artist, which he says will assist his development as an artist. Women are a mainstay in his work and says in future, he’d like to incorporate his connection to females’ hair to his work, similar to friend and fellow artist Lebohang Motaung.


As comfortable as Michael Knight is with and in his ride Kitt, so is artist Ludomo Maqabuka with his jalopy.  His Nissan 1400 embodies his personality and character; a laid back modest individual that’s been through his fair share, but like the 1400, maintains his authenticity and suave in everything he does. We’re travelling from Joburg in his classic van, headed to Tembisa. Maqabuka and I, are part of an exodus of labourers from the city, which pile the highway

Maqabuka is a deliberate visual artist, who is intensely inspired by the artistry of music, through thoughtful musicians. Like Bob Marley said, when it hits you, you feel no pain. The music inspires the work he creates. He tells me of a time while working, listening to HHP’s intro of his album O Rata Mang. Titled O mang? the song aptly made him question who he is. “I was like shit, who am I…and I did a self-portrait after that. It just clicked. I also listen to a lot of jazz when I paint, because jazz is very abstract, there are no sing-alongs or someone’s verse to come…it’s just abstract music that swallows you up. ”

His Base: Ludumo Maqabuka’s work space

In his studio at August House where we were before hitting the road, he has a piece of Dr Philip Tabane with guitar in hand, stationed on stage as a vessel of the spiritual music. “That piece is so special. I don’t want it being owned by someone who doesn’t even know him [Tabane].”

Having said that, he doesn’t get too artsy farty about his work to a point where he will hoard it to himself, because he thinks no one is special enough to own it. “Bab’Philp Tabane is a father to a lot of musicians, especially in Pretoria. I made that piece dedicating it to him…whoever will buy it, must be someone who’s gonna cherish that piece. I don’t care if they hang it up their wall. Hoarding it to myself would be some childish shit. You know I make work to be enjoyed by people,” says Maqabuka.

His work has the feel and boldness of graffiti largely because of the stencils he uses , but says he never did any graff in his past. “I was too chicken to spray walls, but my work is influenced by graffiti. I’m a Hip Hop head…growing up in the 90s, that’s all I wanted to do, but I never made it to the walls- I would just do a quick small tag on a school desk or bathroom wall,” he says.

A talented artist who doesn’t know who she or he is, is less effective as one who does. A pro-black artist who doesn’t make noise about it but lives it, Maqabuka understands the impact his work has and can have. “One thing about white people [at universities] is that, they don’t share knowledge with us. Our forefathers were not taught art. Only those who were fortunate, like musicians. During my course [of Fine Arts] I was reluctant to learn about white people and art- everything is European, there’s a bit of Egyptian. So from my first year until third year I was taught white art.” He studied Fine Arts at the Tshwane University of Technology and graduated in 2007.

Only on his third year was Maqabuka introduced to African art. “That shit interested me…I connected with it. I believe art was the first communication tool, because the Khoisan would draw a cow or whatever on rocks and that would be a reminder when they go hunt that this is our meat for the month- how do they know how to sketch?”

He says that’s where his love for graffiti comes from. “That’s the root of graffiti, it’s expression. Like the youth in America were expressing themselves because they were like ‘no one is was listening to us’ that’s why the colours were bright and bold and the letters were very cartoonish.”

He continues. “I’m telling my reality, with the influence of Hip Hop. The elements of graffiti come from Hip Hop…and I’m also a DJ. Sometime when you make an art work, you don’t really see how deep it is, your choices on images. I’ve painted a lot of musicians that I love. I can’t do anything without music”

Stage name Dub-L-Tot, derived from his nickname Toto, he’s been using the moniker for some years as his alter ego as a DJ. “The nice thing about DJing is that a set is about an hour, so it doesn’t take up much of my time. A couple of years ago, I had a lot of time on my hands because I didn’t have a lot of projects so I would prepare my sets and spend a lot of time practicing…I would play at the Love Rebel in Maboneng on Thursday and Sundays, sometimes on Saturdays.”

Double-L-Tot in action. Photo supplied

A lot has changed for the artist from Vosloorus since teaming up with Cape Town based agency, Spier Arts Trust. He came across the agency while studying a graphic designing course in Sandton at Rosebank College in 2011. “I use to walk past their building, which had nice artwork outside and I always asked myself what happens in there, until I decided to go in and ask one day.”

The agency buys and sells art work and they have Nandos as their biggest client. Maqabuka sent his portfolio after his curiosity led him into that building. “They give you six blocks, you make an artwork and they buy it back from you.”

He has a group exhibition later this month in Cape Town at the AVA Gallery. “The theme of the show is rituals and I chose street rituals, for instance protest as a sub theme,” he says. The exhibition is titled Nandos Creative Exchange powered by the Spier Arts Trust.

Street Ritual: Ludumo Maqabuka’s Work

“We as black people as’bekelani. I remember I use to go to Bag Factory and I wasn’t getting love. Let’s just call it art politics.” He’s a naturally reserved person, but opens up when feeling a sense of kinship with whoever he’s talking with. He says there are cabals in the Joburg art scene, which make it hard for one to crack it if they aren’t known there. “There’s a mafia typa thing…maw’ngaziwa, wubani ozok’fatela? Ama lecture wase Wits and UJ are running competitions…they are influential because they are teaching the future product. Ku rough dawg,” he says in laughter.

The adversity of not being able to fully utilize his university qualification saw him attempt a number of ventures, to make ends meet. In 2010, with a group of friends they tried their luck at running an internet café in Soweto and at some point he tried out at a call centre, which only lasted for three months. “I’m not really much of a talker. I worked in sales…imagine me trying to convince someone to buy a Cell C contract.”

It was while living in the South Western Township that his aunt told him to come back home. “Ma O’lady said I should come back home and try study some course. That’s when I went to Rosebank College to do the graphic designing course.”

Maqabuka lost his mother at a young age and his aunt has practically been his mother ever since. “She’s so dope man. Very supportive”

Amid his struggles for an income, he  start a clothing label with a friend, called Intsizwa Z’phelele. “I’m no longer part of it, but I help them with graphics.”

Talking about his difficult period in life he says “You go through depression, because of pressure from society. As a guy who studied in Pretoria, guys you went to school with are driving nice cars, they’re working and wena you’re broke and still hustling. Those times made me strong. I had to go through that phase.”

“I would advise one to start out as a graphic designer…or get a course that’ll give you a job and then study art afterwards because it’s not for the fainthearted-it’s art. I studied in Pretoria and came to Joburg and it was kinda hard because no one knew me, but if I went to Wits or UJ, I would have things different.”

Ludumo Maqabuka’s depiction of street rituals

Clearly he knows people and some important people know of him now, as he is a resident artist at August House and he is part of their current exhibition. Artists from the renowned studio will be part of a group collection which opens today in Sandton, titled the August House Group Exhibition In collaboration with Teresa Lizamore Mentorship Programme. It will include Zamani Xaba, Bukhosi Nyathi and Kealeboga Tlaleng among others.


It’s quite an artsy fartsy move, to take the most extreme route, to reach your personal dreams. Artists can sometimes get married to their ideas, become oblivious to the strain they’re putting on themselves and those who care for me.

I reminisced on a Jay Electronica verse that he spat on a Chance The Rapper song, How Great, when I heard the story of artist Xolani Mbonani from Kwa-Thema.

In pursuit of their dreams, artists can be quite selfish in how they would shun any advice that differs from the way they see things because of their perfectionist nature. Life never dances to our plans’ tune- it really jives to beat of its own drum, no matter how much we may force it to the dance floor with us. This, brings so much pain and frustration to artists and many creatives, who would have quit a boring nine-to-five or not even searched for one, because of their focus on this big dream they have. Depression, anxiety and for some, suicide are the domino effects when things aren’t going as they had envisioned.

Free spirits-1.2x1m (ACRILIC on paper) 2018. By Xolani

Talking to Mbonani, one gets a different picture of a creative individual. Most artists are idealists, but the Kwa-Thema native is also a realist in how he approaches life. Artists who aren’t even as skilled as he is, would not even dare look for a job because of their ideals. But Mbonani, who holds a three year print making certificate with Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg which he acquired during 1999- 2001, holds down two jobs.  “I’m currently an Estate Agent at Selcourt Estate under Similan Properties. I’m doing two job because of my family,” says the married father of two.

He may have sold you a house, or will in the future, but Mbonani also has an abode in the art space. “I have a studio at August House, studio 1, first floor,” he tells me.

“I paint from the heart. Mainly African portraiture. I’m currently making works that depict my cultural heritage.”

My Ndebele culture -1.2mx1m (ACRILIC on board) 2018. By Xolani

That idea, stuck-out when I first encountered his work, way before I spoke to him. His work is intentional in its  celebration of Africa and its people. “I went to the mountain (initiation school) too many things happen there, stuff that I cannot tell anyone verbally but by means of artwork,” he says.

point of view-1.2x1m (mixed media on board) 2018. By Xolani

Art is about that. Expressing self. Someone will connect to the work because it comes from a sincere place that no one human can really filter.

Mbonani uses mixed media (oil, acrylic and pastel among others) then uses canvas, paper and boards to paint on. “But I mainly like to paint on textured canvas, and I also like making dry-point prints or linocuts.”

“What I love more, is making mural art. Because the wall is like the biggest canvas ever. I express myself better on it than on a smaller scale.”

He is currently preparing for his solo exhibition, together with the Springs Art Gallery, for the end of the year. His work can be viewed at his studio at August House or at his home in Springs.

Strange smile1x700cm (ACRILIC on paper) 2018 By Xolani




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