How a masked artist is spreading the Madiba magic
Gasak is the man behind some striking murals that have popped up across Durban, inspired by Mandela’s rainbow nation dream
A Durban artist is using spray paint cans to carry Madiba’s message of a non-racial South Africa and peace across the world.
27-year-old Durban-based artist Gasak, an alias, is the man behind the colourful mural of the late former president Nelson Mandela that can be found at Kwa Cutshwayo Primary School in Shongweni, west of Durban.
Gasak, who started experimenting with grafitti art using bubble letters in 2005, said his motivation for the artwork – and for his art in general – was Madiba’s quest for a rainbow nation.
He chose to display his art in Shongweni because he wanted to bring colour to a township.
“With my art, I aim to break racial barriers and spread the message of Madiba and spread colour across South African townships,” he said.The mural, completed in 2016, wasn’t his first portrayal of Madiba.
In 2012, another of his Madiba murals was part of a five-piece installation across KwaMashu, a township in the north of Durban. The installation also featured Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Oscar winner Charlize Theron, acclaimed musician Johnny Clegg and the man behind South Africa’s first animated 3D film, Jock of the Bushveld, Duncan MacNeillie.
Speaking about the murals he said: “I wanted to spread colour throughout the township, and I chose these five iconic South African to do it.”
Gasak said the geographical positions of the murals in KwaMashu formed a heart if viewed from above.
But his colourful vision hasn’t been without its challenges.
In 2012 Gasak was assaulted and robbed of his phone in the notorious Mahatma Gandhi Street (formerly Point Road), Durban. He said that when he reported the matter to the police, he was accused of selling his phone to buy drugs.But it was an incident he used as a form of inspiration, prompting him to travel to Mexico where he launched a visual attack on the country’s biggest drug cartels.
Living up to his alias name, which means “to fight” in Indonesian, he set out on a mission: he graffitied Mahatma Gandhi on the walls of a well-known drug cartel’s property.
This was part of his Face of Peace project, where he went around spray painting the faces of iconic peace leaders in some of Mexico’s most drug-infested areas.
“I wanted to attack the drug problem at the heart and going to Mexico and America was the best way to do it,” he said.