Clint White and Scott Eric Williams, a collaborative artistic duo working on the Salesian LifeChoices Project, reflect on youth work, creativity and being artists in South Africa.
“Scotty” and “Boldpants.”
Put together, the names sound like the title of a cartoon series, rather than the nicknames of up-and-coming artists Scott Eric Williams and Clint White.
The pair is collaborating on an artwork to illustrate the story of “Darryn,” a young Capetonian who is writing his story for a youth project by the NPO Salesian Life Choices. Darryn’s story and its artwork will be published in a coffee table book in June to celebrate 20 stories of young people succeeding against the odds in Cape Town.
Both artists emphasise their enthusiasm for youth upliftment as a reason for becoming involved in the project.
“I am drawn towards showcasing the youth in a positive light and being a catalyst of inspiration,” explains White, who hopes the project will “shed light on the amazing youth [South Africa has].”
Williams’s interest in the project stems from his appreciation of the “sense of agency in young people” that the Life Choices project encourages.
As boys, White and Williams both showed artistic promise. Williams was “known for being a bookworm [and] was always drawing.” White had a love for creativity, in all its forms, from a young age too. He was known for singing and was “always creative, coming up with ideas.”
Williams “currently [moonlights] as a member of 7Steps Hub” and works with an art collective called ABACOST. He also contributes to “arts NGOs doing research, web design and layout” and is in the middle of preparing for his first solo exhibition.
He had a “very nomadic upbringing” and attended a collection of schools. However, his self-identification as a “city-boy” remained a constant, no matter where he was.
“I was raised by TV and popular culture such as comic books and cartoons,” says Williams, whose art continues to be inspired by city life and 80s media. He views art as his way of understanding the world and finding his place within society.
“Art helps me to vocalise my concerns and those of others […] I will die if I stop.”
White’s childhood was also influenced by “pop-culture on TV, music and food.” The experience of “having three brothers and hand-me-downs” makes White grateful for what he now has, as “[he] didn’t have much growing up.”
“I do hope to inspire and encourage the youth to develop their curiosity and purpose,” says White, when asked about the 7 Steps Hub, which he founded.
The organisation, which targets young people in marginalised communities, aims “to teach creativity and innovation through art.”
White makes art because it allows him to share his opinions, thoughts, language, history and narrative. He feels that “creativity […] is a critical component of how [people] engage.”
Neither Williams nor White have attended a tertiary institution for training, but both mention their mothers as teachers by example.
For Williams, his mother’s teaching came in the form of “[encouraging] a curiosity about the world.” White’s mother inspired him to be creative as she was “always the one making […] arts and crafts [and] baking.” She laid the foundation for his nickname by making him “custom made pyjama pants [that] become [his] trademark signature.”
Neither artist envisioned themselves in the careers they have today. White “wanted to be in advertising,” whereas Williams imagined himself as a “mad-scientist.” “I could have been more financially secure had I just stuck to Mad Scientist,” jokes Williams.
On the topic of financial security, the artists agree that the willingness to pay for the work and labour of artists is missing from the South African art scene.
White believes that “society needs to acknowledge the role of art and creativity in society, not as an elite luxury or form of expression, but as an integral part of the modern world.” He adds that acknowledging artists is “not a feel good thing, but a critical element to solving our issues and celebrating our successes.”
Despite these misgiving, White and Williams are positive about the variety the South African art scene offers.
“What’s great is that there is no single characteristic that identifies South African art,” says Williams. White explains that this flexibility allows “art [to be] relative to each person.”
This allows for a great deal of artistic variety shaped by “culture, history [and] personal experiences.” Both artists see earning a living from their art as a top artistic goal.
Besides this goal, Williams is set on being “fluent in three more languages besides English and Afrikaans,” and White “would really like to learn graphic design and videography”.
White believes the collaborating experience was a success because the team was “able to listen to one another’s views and find ways to allow each other’s individual strengths to compensate for the other’s shortcomings.”
He emphasises Williams’s “passion for seeing potential in people” as an inspiring trait, while Williams points to White’s “keen intuition” as something he admires. – Holly Charlton