hl next level 2018: artist and designer faatimah mohamed-luke

Trevor Stuurman
Faatimah Mohamed-Luke spent 10 years working as a designer in the fashion industry, and is now focusing on building large-scale art made from plastic blocks, which she’s showed at various art fairs and exhibitions. With her husband, Al Luke, she also heads up art-design duo Mrs + Mr Luke , and they are currently working on a project with Ash Ceramics.

how did you get started as an artist?

My daughter, Sanaa, was the catalyst for my career change. When she was little, we would play with her Lego for hours. She would challenge me to create creatures or buildings and she was extremely detail driven. If she asked for a zebra, it couldn’t look like the horse or the dog; it needed to be a zebra. Things became more detailed and more elaborate and eventually I started creating patterned pots out of Lego for my plants. People saw them and I started getting requests and very soon it morphed into the career I have right now. People ask me all the time how I came up with this idea and my answer is always, I was just playing with my kid.

did you always want to be doing what you’re doing now?

I had a room full of Crayola growing up, so artist was the initial plan. During high school I entertained marine biologist, doctor and pianist. Finally I decided on fashion design, which I studied for three years, and started a fashion brand which I ran for a decade. I then shifted my focus to art and interiors.

do you have a particular ‘favourite’ among the works you’ve created? And are you happy to tell people ‘Yes, that’s my favourite piece’?

My first piece ever made was called ‘Tessellat: Rectangular’ and it was created for The New Wave at Southern Guild Gallery. It is 1.4 x 1.8 metres of hyper-patterned perfection utilising 14208 building blocks. It took me a month to create and at the time it seemed like an impossible feat but once it was hanging in the gallery space, I fell in love and decided I wanted to do that every day. That will always be my favourite piece, and of course that’s our little secret J

what is your defining career moment to date?

In December, I co-designed two basketball courts at Zoo Lake with Karabo Poppy Moletsane <LINK TO HER Q&A> for Nike. It was my first surface design, and to have it be on such a huge scale with such an iconic brand was truly unexpected. Futura Design Agency called to ask if I would be interested, and I said that I would love to but that I had no graphic design background and I had never done anything like that before. They said that they loved my aesthetic and colour play, and would not take no for an answer, so of course I upskilled and did it.

which local creatives are catching your eye at the moment?

I love Renée Rossouw's artworks and product designs. Catherine Ash of Ash Ceramics has a great eye for colour and pattern. Karabo Poppy Moletsane has an amazing aesthetic. Nkuli Mlangeni of The Ninevites  is creating an African luxury aesthetic that is fresh and modern.

are there any artists you look up to?

I’m in love with Tony Gum, she’s incredibly gifted and wise beyond her years. I enjoy watching her grow and evolve out loud as part of her artistic practice. Lady Skollie is always pushing the envelope, but in a way that I feel is essential to our collective growth. She discusses and dissects culture and societal norms that we have allowed and continue to allow to our detriment. Carmen Herrera is also one of my favourites. She is a Cuban abstract painter, and at 103 years old, she’s still creating art.

where do you find your inspiration?

I love travelling, and enveloping myself in cultures that are not my own. We try to travel once a year, and will live in one country for 2-3 weeks visiting many cities so that we are able to move past the touristy things and actually immerse ourselves in the culture. It’s all so beautiful.

what is your earliest visual memory?

My earliest memory was when I was 4 years old, and visiting the local corner store in BoKaap with my mom. The shopkeeper, Mr Allie, always gave me a sweet when we visited, but this time, he said I could run around behind the counter and choose whatever I wanted. It was heaven, for little four-year-old me.

which single place would you recommend that everyone try to visit?

Jardins Marjorelle in Marrakech, Morocco. It is probably the most beautiful and peaceful place I’ve ever been. It was the home of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé and has a two-and-a-half-acre botanical garden and three museums. After Yves Saint-Laurent died in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the botanical garden.

what’s the most memorable piece of art you’ve ever seen?

‘Girl Before a Mirror’ by Pablo Picasso is one of my favourite artworks. Last year, I was lucky enough to see it ‘in the flesh’ at MoMA in New York. I’m not going to lie, I died a little.

what is the next project that you are working on? I’m currently creating pieces for Turbine Art Fair in Johannesburg. Following that, I will be focusing on product design for a few months, focusing on homeware and accessories. Learn all about the game changers who are taking things to the Next Level in our #HLNEXTLEVEL2018  issue.