Keanon Pohlman is a 25 year old emerging artist based in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. He matriculated in 2010 and attained a fine art diploma from the Ruth Prowse School of Art in 2014. Never having any formal training or experience in either painting or drawing before making his way to the art school, he often sources graffiti mural art as well as conscious Underground Hip Hop culture as inspiration. Therefore, his work often depicts a sense of expressive colour use and an attraction to big scale formats. From 2014 – 2017 he made up the experience he lacked by collaborating with other artists for corporate commissions, collaborations with corporate entities to reach project goals and currently have spent a lot of time in his home studio to expand his portfolio of works.  To list but a few of the brands which he has collaborated with; CapeTown International Airport, ERKE Apparel,WWF  Baz Art CapeTown International public art festival 2017 , DwarsValley Festival 2017, The Muizenburg festival 2017;are amongst the familiar names he has worked with.

From 2015 – 2016 he has been part of the annual collaborative exhibition in Hamburg Germany curated by Gabah Africa Contemporary Art, a NGO which aims at introducing emerging artist to the broader European art market. This year again, alongside 17 other artist from all over the continent of Africa, they formed the 2017 show.

He goes by the artist alias, UrbanKhoi, whose interest is in celebrating and documenting truly Afrocentric (Khoithentic) imagery, both in his mural work as well as his tangible mixed media artworks.

Most recently Urbankhoi’s inspiration from Hip Hop Kulture and Graffiti Culture influenced a Community upliftment Project through mural art within his hometown area he Grew up; Eersterivier. The idea of using one’s gift to inspire other individuals to realise their gift, as well as value and knowledge of self.

1.  When was the first time you started drawing?

As far as I can remember, I would say I started drawing around about the time I went to Elementary school.

2.  Did it immediately become a passion for you?

No, in fact, I used to think my drawing was really bad, as at first I found it terribly difficult to draw anything representational. In my perception at the time, drawing meant to translate images very realistically.

3. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Well, as my answer would be the same every time this specific question is presented. My inspiration, starts with Graffiti art and Hip Hop Kulture. However, this is also accompanied by my knowledge of self. Meaning, the knowledge I have of my identity in relation to history. Where it is that I come from, and the journey that has been travelled by those that came before me, to the very point I stand today- UrbanKhoiSoldaat.

Another point I would like to add as to what inspires. I would say the struggle of the everyday survival in the city/ or rather the outskirts of the city. When I look at some of my peers in the art industry and see how hard they have worked to achieve where they are today, it really inspires me to see how self-driven, focused, and consistent these individuals are in their success.

4. What was the biggest highlight of your career thus far?

The biggest highlight in my career thus far will most probably be earlier this year when I participated in a street art festival in Pniel=Stellenbosch. There I realised/experienced what impact art has on our communities. Coming from outside, this community of Lynquedoch, welcomed me as one of their own and made sure that I was taken care of. The festival ran over a weekend, starting the Friday. These residents, not knowing who I am as a person, invited me into their homes, offered me accommodation and made sure that I was well fed during my time in their little town. Just the basic human consideration, of not expecting anything in return. But doing all of that purely out of appreciation for the art that I came to do in their town. That was the biggest highlight thus far!

5. Are there any, local and/or international, artist out there that you would like to collaborate with?

There are indeed much graffiti artist that I will like to collaborate with both locally and international. I think we all have idealistic goals in life, and yes ofcourse some of mine may include collaborating with some aerosol brand ambassadors, like those from Ironlak, Montana Colors and the Molowtov artists.

However, I have been fortunate enough to have, through my journey, cross paths with some of the pioneers in the Hip Hop scene of Cape Town, which to me is like a dream.

So, to answer this question, my personal goal is to link with as much graffiti artist in the world as possible, as I believe I can learn something from every single graff artists out there. - Each One Teach one.

6. What motivates you to do your art?

My biggest motivation for art is life. The celebration of life. The expression of life. The love for life and to express it through art, music, poetry and dance.

7. Do you think your surroundings has an impact on your art you portray?

I think that our surroundings often has an impact on how we feel. My paintings about the Khoisan/UrbanKhoi is spesificaly an interpretation of the relationship between the working-class individual (The UrbanKhoi) and the construct of the City/System. The impact that the city has on the UrbanKhoi.

8. You go by the name ‘UrbanKhoi’. What is the meaning behind it?

The name; UrbanKhoi, is a narrative in itself. It kind of already tells the story of historic journey. One which started out as an indigenous people living a natural existence in harmony and respect with nature. Urbanisation occurs and situation forces us to leave nature and move to the concrete landscapes of city in pursuit of sufficient resources. Here we are basically forced, by means of survival to exist as labourers for a capitalist society.

As my indigenous ancestors that used cave drawings to document their lifestyle and laws of the time, so do I, by means of my paintings and graffiti art, document not just the experience of the UrbanKhoi, but reflect ideas that are reoccurring within our contemporary society.

9. Do you feel as a POC (Person of Colour) you get put in a certain box?

I do feel that there is a misconception regarding colour. Especially the way people of colour view people of colour. And in the past I have been put in a certain box, because of racial stereotypes. These stereotypes might have been successful because at the time I might not have been equipped to deal with such a perception of myself. As time passes, we come to realise that the real issue isn’t with colour but, it has much to do with the character of the person, the individual, regardless of the colour of their skin.

10.Until today we still live in a very segregated world. Have you had any negative impact, because of trials and tribulations and how media portrays POC?

As a graffiti artist and a POC, the very first idea that comes into many people’s mind is, Vandalism, drugs, gang culture and all those negative connotations that are associated with everything else that happens on the streets.

I think this is where the work for me begins. To observe what kind of character am I portraying to the public, and also my attempts to inform the public as to what I’m all about. Because at the end of the day, a beautiful piece of art is a beautiful piece of art because of its visual aesthetics and character of that specific artwork and not because of the skin colour of the artist. 

11. Do you think as a young artist you are an inspiration to people especially young people out there?

I do, or rather that is what I am told. I think the reason for this is, because I try create art which is specifically addressed to our youth. Encouraging them to embrace the self, embrace the knowledge of old, knowledge of self. I often put out the message of love and unity, because this is what we need in our communities. The urban Communities are troubled by Gang related crimes, drugs, poverty as well as moral inferiority. I think that some of my art becomes a voice for those that are reflecting upon the situation similarly.

12. What message do you want to bring out with your art?

There are two things;

The first message is to Love, respect and be proud one self and everyone around- the idea of each one teach one, especially to the youth.

The second message through my Khoisan paintings, I document the struggles, for example, the 9-5 labour issue. All in hopes that one day in the far future, youth may look at my art and conclude; ’ This is how the UrbanKhoisan People struggled in 2017’ , ‘ let us aim for more freedom, more awareness(Awehness), more consciousness about ourselves.’

13. Other than your phenomenal drawings, what other passion or interests do you have?

I love nature and wellbeing. So I am very much interested in anything related to nature. Gardening, going for hikes and walks in the forest.

I am very enthusiastic about exercise and Parkour/Freerunnig as well as good, healthy food.

Music is a must. It has become part of my existence.

I also love to read.

 What’s next for ‘UrbanKhoi’?

At the moment, I am working on a couple of projects. Ranging from mural projects in my community, to promoting my khoisan art to the wider international audience. Looking towards the future, I wish to teach much of what I have learnt to the youth in my own community from which I grew up, that they may have some knowledge to take them further than that which the immediate environment has to offer. #RememberTheRoots.