The Portfolio: Breeze Yoko

In 2018, South African musician Thandi Ntuli and the US’s Georgia Anne Muldrow participated in Denderah Rising , a collaborative show put together by the Pan African Space Station, a Chimurenga project. Johannesburg-based multimedia artist Breeze Yoko, who made the initial poster artwork for the event, speaks to the Mail & Guardian about the artwork’s new life as the album cover for Muldrow’s new album VWETO III.

How did it happen that you got to do this artwork?

It was a Chimurenga gig. They hit me up. I was in Paris at the time, in a residency there. I had a bit of time. I have always liked Georgia’s attitude. She’s hip-hop. B-girl. So I wanted to give her that attitude. B-girl stance. But I also wanted to root her 

within the continent more in the spiritual realm, because she’s always going on about the spiritual stuff of that side of the world in terms of West African deities and rituals. So I thought ngimhlabe ngezasekhaya. It’s more of a spiritual reference than an African jungle reference. Because the poster was made for South Africa, I knew I didn’t have to explain that.

During your residency in Paris, was there a particular style at your fingertips?

I was in an experimental space. No expectations, no-fears space. I had arrived in France late January, and the gig was in May. I was starting to settle in and I was inspired by a lot of the shit around me. I was relaxed and able to create and experiment without any expectation because there was no brief. 

I’ve been flirting a lot with the digital space but not really committing. It is something else, not really a replacement. So it is one of the things I can add to my arsenal. 

What was your process?

I started on paper and did a few rough sketches. And when I say rough, I mean like rough. I then sent them three stances and they chose this one. Sometimes I cheat, if I like one more then I tend to develop that one more so the eye goes there and you choose that one first. I don’t know if it worked or if they just really liked the stance.

I did a couple of pencil-only sketches first. Then I scanned the joint and started fucking with it on the computer. I was trying to have the style without lines, which make it more comic cartoon, more than it is now. 

How did it get chosen as the cover of her album?

Muldrow’s Canadian manager had taken one of the posters back home with him. He’s one of the guys who runs Foreseen Entertainment. He sent her the poster, and she was like, “Oh shit, I want this to be my album cover, and not even to do another one. That one.” They asked to license it and we came to an agreement and kept it moving. It’s funny because I’d been using it for mock-ups for these murals. One might still happen. I just needed something that I’d done before for two mural projects.

Since 2018, I hadn’t fucked with that image. And then I used it twice to do these mock-ups and then the image gives back. I see it as the image itself wanting to live. It wanted to live beyond what it was used for. When a creation is solid it always finds a way to live. 

Is the album being released as an NFT (non-fungible token) or just the artwork?

Whoever buys the one-off NFT of the artwork will also get the album, and other merchandise like T-shirts. 

VWETO III, due out on May 21 via Foreseen Entertainment and Muldrow’s own Epistrophik Peach Sound. You can pre-order it, and there’s also a one-off NFT of the album artwork up for auction on OpenSea  and Rarible, with 50% of the proceeds going to Critical Resistance, which “seeks to build an international movement to end the prison industrial complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe.”

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