On August 17, less than 24 hours after the Marikana massacre, graphic designer and illustrator Sindiso Nyoni began working on a seminal piece he would later call Protect and Serve. It features a gun-toting, balaclava-clad policeman baring his teeth in a clenched smile. The ink splatters — a street-art staple — take on an obvious meaning as they drench the background and the policeman’s bulletproof vest.
Given Nyoni’s own experiences as an immigrant in this country and that his was the first artistic bullet fired in the salvo of response to the massacre, the work may have been a bit kneejerk.
But then again, having been born under the shadow of the Matebeleland massacres in his native Zimbabwe, Nyoni’s entire existence is about using art to navigate his circumstances. Formerly an illustrator and graphic designer with advertising agency Black River FC, Nyoni has recently embarked on the risky route of pursuing art as his sole, full-time career.
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