QUICK ON THE DRAW
World of inspiration – punk rockers 21 Children on their wide artistic influences
Who and what motivates the punk trio? It turns out they are inspired by everything from skateboards and hairdressing to Basquiat and Kid Cudi – but not much by artificial intelligence.
InArt’s bi-monthly interviews explore culture by asking creative people about their life in the arts and which artists in other media stimulate them. This time it’s the turn of punk rock trio 21 Children, comprising guitarist Thulasizwe Nkosi, drummer Valentino “Jazz” Nkosi and vocalist Abdula Skink.
When did you first identify as a creative artist?
Jazz: In Grade 2 I used to shade differently from the other kids and I would be the example for other kids to follow. We would have graphs to do in maths and I’d just do them my way.
Thula: In primary school, I’d finish the class exercises very quickly and I’d start to draw my classmates and my teachers. That way people identified me as an artist. So I agreed.
Abdula: When I was eight years old we had a class art project and the work I made was used as the inspiration for the rest of the class – the colours I used were just different. It had cool dynamic tints of blue and yellow. I actually still have that drawing with me.
What other branch of art stimulates you?
T: Drawing and skateboarding. They’re the mediums that have been engraved in me for a long time.
J: Hairdressing, drawing and fashion. One day when I have a lot of money I want to be an interior designer.
A: Painting and filmmaking. I’ve been painting for a long time, since the finger-painting days. Filmmaking is something I’ve wanted to dabble in.
Which artist in said discipline has significantly inspired you, and why?
T: I want to say Basquiat, but he can’t draw.
J: Jeremy Scott is pretty cool. His interpretation of fashion excites me.
A: I really love the director Larry Clark. His films have been an inspiration for personal work I’ve done. He really has a cool way of displaying emotions.
What is art’s most important function?
T: Art enables you to look at our world differently. Take politics, for example. Someone who isn’t interested in politics will see this art piece depicting politics in a certain way. Through seeing that you gain a new outlook on what politics actually is.
J: For time to move on. Every time I needed time to pass it became an escape for me away from the real world. I would play with my dad’s drums or just draw the whole day.
A: Expression and letting go of all the inhibitions we experience in our day-to-day. Making art keeps you from going insane.
Local creatives who excite you?
T: Manthe Ribane. She’s more of a dancer, but she paints and sings too. She’s an all-rounder.
J: SenzArt, the graffiti artist. I love SenzArt. I love the characters he draws… he focuses on physical features. Like eyes – he really makes them come to life.
A: I really dig Club Valley. They’re amazing musicians and our close friends. Really good people, too.
What specific work do you return to again and again, and why?
T: Slayer’s Reign in Blood. I can listen to that record over and over again. It just doesn’t get old.
A: Kid Cudi, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven. I listened to that album in a dark time in my life. It helped me persist through what I was experiencing. It just felt real.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Mtshali, Michael Jackson and manga – the many influences of coolest cats MaxX & Love
J: Mshefane in Inyakanyaka and those old movies – I think Somizi’s dad made those movies and starred in them. I stand to be corrected. But it’s such a classic.
Thoughts on the AI revolution?
T: I don’t have much to say on that topic. Don’t know too much about it. It’s like computers doing what we can do. I will say this, though, humans do it better.
J: I don’t have enough knowledge to comment on it.
A: AI is pretty crazy. People are making music, making art and even taking photos. It’s cool what you can do with it. But it’s not for me. I don’t think we have to worry about it for a long time.
Any project you’re wrapping up?
Band: Two Kings and a Skink EP coming very soon. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Abbey Road in Midrand by Sebastian Truda and Jesse Elk. We’ve got shows lined up. Details @twentyonechildren on Facebook and Instagram. DM
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.