Bed linen Keneilwe Mokoena (Mr Price Home)
- Keneilwe Mokoena is a visual artist and curator from Mamelodi in Tshwane.
- Mokoena initially pursued studies in interior design, but learned during her freshman year that she did not want to pursue that career.
- After several years of dropping out of college and having a mental breakdown, she returned to TUT to study what she loves, fine art.
- Last year, retailers such as Mr Price Home and Pick n Pay approached the artist to collaborate on projects including homewares and a wine collection.
Keneilwe Mokoena, who grew up in Mamelodi, is a visual artist and curator who has wanted to pursue a career in the arts for as long as she can remember. She put her foot down to pursue her passion, and her work caught the attention of Mr Price Home and Pick n Pay.
Artwork by Keneilwe Mokoena on Mr Price’s room spray (Mr Price Home)
The Fine Arts graduate, who first attended technical school, recalls always wanting to be in art school, even though she wasn’t sure what she would study.
“In ninth grade, I wanted to go to art school, but my mom didn’t really want me to, so I had to be in that school,” she told Business Insider SA. “Over there, what came closest to art was technical drawing.
Mokoena’s technical drawing background in high school led her to enroll in an interior design course at Tshwane University of Technology. But she soon realized that was far from what had set her soul on fire.
The misfortune of pursuing a career she didn’t really like led Mokoena to have a nervous breakdown during her freshman year of college, and as a result, drop out altogether.
“It was my first time going to a psychiatric clinic. I had been depressed since high school, and I guess that was the breaking point,” she said.
After several years out of college, Mokoena tried to figure out what to do. She eventually returned to TUT to pursue a degree in visual arts.
“With interior design and technical drawing, it’s all about precision, form, function, and that’s not really me,” she said.
Spreading art around the world
Mokoena began sharing her work with the public in her second year. She was already participating in exhibitions and did not look back. This, however, would not be the end of the hard times.
“I went through another bout of depression which was also my last suicide attempt, and in 2015 after that nervous breakdown I decided to stop trying to die so much because it wasn’t working out,” said she declared.
Notebooks Keneilwe Mokoena Pastel (Mr Price Home)
In the same year, Mokeona moved from Tshwane to Joburg where she lived on her own and flourished beyond her expectations.
She started making a serious living from her art, especially on social media platforms like Instagram. She discovered that her clients were not in local art galleries or exhibitions, but in other countries like the UK, USA and Australia.
It was also on Instagram that major retailers such as Mr Price Home and Pick n Pay spotted Mokeona’s work and approached her for collaborations.
Keneilwe Mokoena decorative cushions (provided).
His work with Mr. Price’s house began last year when the retailer applied Mokoena’s artwork to several interior pieces, including bedding, wall art, candles, throw pillows and stationery. The range of homeware is inspired by the artist’s colorful and floral self-portraits.
Mokoena has also created visuals for Bellingham Wines, which is also sold at major retailers such as Pick n Pay. His visuals have been featured under The Masterpiece label, including the 2021 Red Blend and the 2021 Chardonnay.
Bellingham Wines with Keneilwe Mokoena (Pick n Pay)
Now, Mokoena explores multimedia work on YouTube and Instagram, where she creates and shares collage pieces that showcase her internal struggles, among other things.
Although Mokoena believes in going there to get gigs and promote her work, she shared that figuring out where an artist’s market is is very important, and she’s found that hers is mostly found on social media.