Drawing for the destitute

James lives on Loveday Street in central Johannesburg—literally, as he is homeless. His biggest wish, to fly in an aeroplane, is conveyed in a drawing of a plane flying over the high-rise buildings of the city.

James’s drawing will be one of 1 000 illustrations exhibited at the old Security Building on Commissioner Street on November 16 where art—drawn by both destitute and well-known illustrators—will be sold to raise money for the homeless. 

Night of 1 000 Drawings, based on a concept first implemented in New York, is a one-night-only event for which anyone, famous or not so famous, can donate drawings.
These will be sold to the public for R100 each.

The proceeds from the sale of the art will go to Paballo ya Batho, an organisation that has been feeding more than 300 inner-city homeless people in Johannesburg on Wednesday nights since 1989.

With the help of Docs, a student-run volunteer organisation at the University of the Witwatersrand’s medical school, Paballo also provides homeless people with basic medical care.

David Chong, of the Legion Collective, a group of illustrators and artists in Johannesburg that is behind the event, said Night of 1 000 Drawings is a more effective way to raise funds than just asking for money.

“This way we’re selling you something and not just asking for money,” he told the Mail & Guardian Online.

Any material, any canvas, any theme, any number of drawings and by anyone will be accepted; the only conditions are that works are A5 (about 15cm by 21cm) in size and submitted by November 1.

Drawings have been entered on every type of surface imaginable—from tissue paper and envelopes to the back of cardboard boxes.

Among those who have already donated work for the exhibition are fashion writer and illustrator Dion Chang, comic creator and Bitterkomix contributor Mark Kannemeyer, graffiti star Faith47, artist Mike Saal and comic illustrator Jason Bronkhorst. 

Chang donated a drawing of his Gloria illustration, and Saal pledged some of his dark-humour illustrations, one of which is a drawing of a person eating a broken skeleton on a plate. It reads: “I wish there was more to eat than just skulls and bones.”

Drawings by artists like Kannemeyer are sure to be snatched up as soon as sales open at 8.30pm on the night of the event, but Chong said Kannemeyer’s drawings, for example, will be spread out all over the exhibition space to avoid one person claiming the whole bunch.

James and Rooi, another inner-city homeless man, have drawn a number of illustrations for the exhibition.

“James on Loveday Street” as he’s known by members of Paballo ya Batho, uses You magazine for inspiration by copying its landscape and portrait photos.

Rooi, a teenager who sells scrap metal and is often hard to find because he’s usually stoned, drew his illustration—of a distorted naked woman standing next to a man holding a spear—on the back of a Disprin-sachet dispenser. His “canvas” is larger than A5 but because the illustration is so good, Chong will scan it to reduce the size.

“The ethos of the whole event is people with more heart than skill, and that no one’s drawings will be of lesser value—even if they’re not famous. James’s drawings will be right next to Dion’s.”

So far, Chong has received 400 illustrations, 200 of which are from Cape Town. If the number of entries doesn’t reach the 1 000 mark, he has illustrators from the advertising industry and Wits technikon standing by to draw 600 more.

He said the majority of the crowd they were expecting would be from the “creative industry” in Johannesburg.

The money raised will go into buying Paballo ya Batho a new vehicle, as the organisation’s previous vehicle was stolen in the inner city. But Chong said the event also has another goal. “We’re looking for a regular corporate sponsor [for Paballo]; that’s the secret mission of the whole event.”

The exhibition takes place on November 16, in the old Security Building, 95 Commissioner Street, central Johannesburg. Folk-emo band Harris Tweed (who share their name with a comic strip) and local jazz band HEADspace will perform.

Where to drop off artworks

King James advertising agency

Hutton Court (first floor, north wing)

Jan Smuts Avenue, Hyde Park, Johannesburg

More information: Tel: 082 600 0011 or 1000drawings@gmail.com

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