Local creative duo finds beauty in the discarded.
Cape Town, South Africa (26 January 2020) – “Mad Mark” and Genius first met 10 years ago when Genius was 17. Mark saw him selling handmade wire and bead keyrings at an intersection and brought him on board as an apprentice to make art from corrugated iron frames.
Since then, the pair have been inseparable.
Mark & Genius are based out of Mark’s workshop and studio in Woodstock. They find castaway tin sheets, which they buy from scrap piles in surrounding informal settlements – thus supporting the community, and transform them into beautiful pieces of art.
Genius says working with Mark has been like attending a course at university. He feels that over the years, he has obtained a “degree in corrugated iron”. He says Mark just loves anything old, which explains Mark’s passion for corrugated iron, as some of the sheets they find are over 100 years old.
Genius, having lost both his parents, says Mark is like a father figure who has taken him under his wing. Genius has developed a strong bond with Mark’s entire family.
The pair feeds off each other. Genius is the YIN to Mark’s YANG.
Sourcing this treasured material can often be tedious, and sometimes dangerous, as the pair go into the informal settlements in areas such as Kyaletsha, Malmsbery and Kyaletsha.
Genius says, “Most of the time I feel unsafe because we go into these areas with wads of cash”.
However, they always know that they have each other’s backs. Genius doesn’t speak Xhosa and Mark’s Afrikaans is limited, so they have devised a clever plan to communicate with the local communities and have printed out sheets in both languages which explain that they are looking for corrugated iron (in a rather humorous way). These papers start a conversation, and often someone knows someone else in the community, who has sheets to sell. In the Afrikaans version, Mark says that he wants the older “Lelik Opgefok” sheets.
It can be tricky as they often feel as if they are invading people’s privacy and the public reaction is often wary and suspicious. It’s hard work for the pair, but with their joint determination, they find leads from community members willing to get involved and make some cash for their families.
On any given day, of 100 sheets they find, they maybe buy 10, of which 2-3 are good.
Mark says, “Our work is getting better because we are finding better quality, older corrugated iron. The older it is, the better quality it comes to be, with rich beautiful hues, such as orange and blue. Finding the right stuff is the biggest battle”.
“You never know what you’re going to find. Your eyesight gets fooled on the spot – you have to bang it flat and wash it before you discover the beauty in it.”
Mark says, in the townships, they look after everything beautifully. Under the paint, you have no idea how old the material is.
“That’s why it’s so exciting to uncover what is under each sheet once it is banged flat and washed.”
“I know more about this medium than anyone on the planet, but I still get it wrong.”
Without question, Mark intends for Genius, his protégée and “son” to take over the business one day.
Fellow South Africans can meet this awesome pair at Mark’s exhibition running from 13th-16th February from 10 am-6 pm @ the SIX BUILDING, 6 Ravenscraig Rd, Woodstock. For more information visit www.markhilltout.com.