By Nomali Cele
For months, I would walk down my now-former street in Zone 2, Diepkloof and the view would transform from that of a taxi parking area near Bara to a glimpse of the Orlando Cooling Towers, which were vibrant colours when I first moved in almost two years ago. But in the past six or so months, something had changed. One of the towers was painted a plain black. And that’s where Karabo Poppy Moletsane, an Illustrator, graphic designer and street artist from here in Johannesburg, comes in.
Karabo Poppy Moletsane was contracted by Soweto Gold, a proudly local lager, to turn one of the Orlando Cooling Towers into a monument of the beer brand but also a monument for the historic township as well. The Orlando Cooling Towers have, over the last decade, become a tourist attraction in the area and one of the most visible signifiers of the location.
Karabo Poppy Moletsane’s journey in design
This milestone is only the beginning for Moletsane, it’s also a drop in the ocean of her many career achievements so far. Previous work has included a mural for Nike, a campaign with Woolworths, co-designed a mural for the Zoo Lake basketball courts as well as a Google Doodle! Moletsane’s design mantra is “preserving the African aesthetic” and her work, whether brand-commissioned public art or published in a small zine, rings true of that aspiration.
The Orlando Cooling Towers mural is not the first time Moletsane’s work has brightened Soweto. In 2017, Karabo Poppy Moletsane collaborated with a communications agency called Futura to revamp the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville. While the agency the heavy lifting of bringing the facility to 2017, Moletsane was tasked with putting her signature street art stamp on the football facility’s front wall.
Looking at Moletsane’s work, be it branded or in the background of an Award-nominated music video, her intention is to tell a uniquely African story. Her work is vibrant and unexpected. That’s exactly what we need from young, Afropolitan artists: Bold and true stories of who we are and can be as Africans. The continent is a canvas.