#MyJoburg: Artist Seth Pimentel aka African Ginger

29 Nov 2023
Skating through Braamfontein nine years ago, Seth Pimentel met Obey Giant (the moniker of American artist and activist Shepard Fairey) as he was painting a mural of Nelson Mandela for Hennessy, and a seed was planted. Today, the tree is bearing fruit: Pimentel's most recent large-scale project saw him collaborating with Hennessy to paint a rooftop basketball court at 73 Juta Street (where The Playground Market is). "It's still a bit too surreal for me to even think about. A real dream come true," he says. 

Also known as African Ginger (@african_ginger), Pimentel's art star has been steadily on the rise, honing his visual voice while exploring themes with particular resonance amongst his contemporaries, like identity and mental health. He's long been at home in Joburg's streets. As a youngster, he'd accompany his dad on work trips to the city, skating and painting to pass the time. His work has grit, like the city that inspires him. He's worked with major brands on murals around the city and has exhibited his personal work in gallery settings – Why So Blue, Brown Boy? was his solo at Kalashnikovv in 2022.

We quizzed Pimentel about hoops, heights and what he loves about the city of Joburg.

What do you love most about Joburg?
"The people. Hands down, the people."

Illustrator and experimental artist Seth Pimentel in front of his handiwork. Photo: Seth Pimentel.

Your latest projects have involved creating artwork on a basketball court. What draws you to these? 
I guess to have my work on a larger scale is great. Working with stuff in spaces I don’t usually occupy is great.

When did you first connect with basketball and/or street and hip-hop culture? 
Through skateboarding and friends from when I was younger.

What is it about the city that inspires your work?
The grit that is Johannesburg. It’s a hustler's city.
Pimentel's painted court at 73 Juta Street is inspired by African sunsets. Photo: Duma Collective.

Your earliest artwork?
Probably when I was five. It was this really bad drawing of a city. I hated it, but my teacher seemed to like it so she gave it a gold star.

What are the themes you seek to explore in your work?
Self-actualisation, self-reflection. The youth of Johannesburg.

What advice would you give your younger self? 
Don’t stop. It’s tough but worth it.

What's your earliest memory of Joburg? 
Going to town with my dad when he would go to work. I grew up skating and painting around the city.
A surreal, shifting portrait. Photo: Seth Pimentel. 

Home is...
Where you belong.

What three things should a visitor not leave Joburg without seeing or experiencing?
A market morning, a brunch afternoon and a night out. 

The most memorable meal you have eaten in Joburg?
Great Japanese food from a place that was called the Great Eastern Food Bar. It used to be in Melville but closed down. Now there’s a spot called KōL Izakhaya at Hyde Park Corner.
Beautiful bites at Japanese restaurant KōL Izakhaya. Photo: KōL Izakhaya.

If you could buy one Joburg building which would it be?
I don't know. Maybe the Carlton Centre [a historic 50-storey skyscraper in Joburg's City Centre].

If you were the Joburg mayor for one day (average tenure) what would you change?
More spaces for people to skate, legalise graffiti, open more wall spaces for murals. Beef up security in the city. Keep the city clean.
The entrance to the Carlton Hotel, see 2Summers' visit to the historic site. Photo: 2Summers.

What makes someone a Joburger?
Their ability to socialise with ease. Joburg's people are super friendly and supportive.

What do you love most about Joburg?
The people. Hands down the people.

What do you least like about Joburg?
The crime. Oh man, the crime is a real buzz kill.

Your number-one tip for a first-time visitor to Joburg?
Be vigilant but enjoy our nightlife. There’s something beautiful about the Joburg nighttime.
An unflinching gaze. Photo: Seth Pimentel. 

The perfect weekend in Joburg includes...
Great sun, having good cocktails and listening to good music on a Saturday. An average Saturday at The Royale or somewhere in Parkhurst.

Three words that describe this city?
Bold, beautiful, unique.
A tropical playground at Cuban-themed restaurant and bar The Royale. Photo: The Royale.

Read about the sky-high basketball court Pimentel painted in Braamfontein.

Check out some of our previous #MyJoburg interviews for more insights into the city:

#MyJoburg with Trevor Stuurman, photographer and creative director
#MyJoburg with Kay Kay Ribane, visual artist and co-founder of USURPA Gallery
#MyJoburg interview with Banele Khoza, artist and founder of BKhz Gallery. 


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