Heideveld artist Shameeg Lakay is using his talent to brighten up his community and beat the challenges faced by many school drop-outs on the Cape Flats.
Mr Lakay, 25, grew up with his grandparents, parents and sister in their family home in Heideveld. He dropped out of Heideveld High School in Grade 10.
He had discovered his love for art while at Dagbreek Primary when he saw his classmate drawing a picture of Dragon Ball Z and asked him to show him how to draw it.
Living on the Cape Flats has not been easy for Mr Lakay but he has used the poverty, gangsterism and drugs as content for his drawings.
“What inspires me about my community is that it reflects as a mirror image. It is everything I don’t want to be. It has made me want to achieve my goals over the years,” said Mr Lakay.
“I see a lot of mothers crying, sitting with their sons’ dead bodies. It’s heartbreaking for them and for me to see what gangsterism does. I wouldn’t want my mother to go through that so I steer clear of that type of life,” he said.
Last year he was tasked with painting the library of Welcome Primary School in Heideveld.
He did his first 3D bubble painting, which took him three months to complete.
“The kids and teachers loved it. Instead of putting ABCs on the walls, which was what the school suggested to me, I wanted it to be fun and colourful, something for the children to love,” he said.
Mr Lakay said art has kept him safe from many things that the youth experiment with when going out to parties with friends.
“Art has helped me to steer clear of partying and experimenting with drugs. There were many nights when my friends went out and because I was busy drawing I, said ‘no I have work to do’ and the next day I would hear that someone got into trouble or got hurt.”
Mr Lakay particularly loves sketching. “I can do anyting with a pencil,” he said.
Mr Lakay has applied to many institutions to study art but the lack of funding has closed many doors for him. He would love to learn the basics about what he does and be able to teach it to others in his community.
“I’ve been refused at a lot of art schools because of finance but I would love the opportunity to study and learn about my talent. There are so many things I don’t know, like the terms of some of the strokes you do with a brush. I just need some knowledge about art so that I can explain it to others properly. Everything I’ve learnt I stole with the eye so I would like to be able to explain to a child how art works with the correct terminology.”
His parents have been supportive of his endeavour to be a full-time artist although he struggles to find a job in the field without a proper qualification.
“My mom and dad have been really patient with me. My mom knows what my goals are and is very supportive of my work. A lot of people think that art is not a career, that you need to do something academic and I was depressed for a long time because people didn’t support my dream and they wanted me to be something that others they knew were.”
“I questioned myself a lot and wondered if I could make something of it so I asked my mom what I should do and she asked me what I wanted to do and told me to go for it,” he said.
“My advice to people who can draw is to use their talent because there is a lot of money in art, they just need to learn about it. They must keep on going and do the same thing over and over and it will get better.”
“I am so thankful for the way I grew up or I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I want people to smile when they see my work, that is what makes me happy,” said Mr Lakay.
Maneneberg police spokesperson, Lieutenant Ian Bennett said it is difficult for youngsters, especially high school drop-outs, not to be drawn to the life of gang violence.
“Hundreds of children fall into the life of gangsterism each year. There is such a lot of exposure to gangs in the community that it has become a norm. Parents must take control of their children but this is difficult due to so many single parents who don’t have the time because they are always working,” said Lieutenant Bennett.
Lieutenant Bennet added that this story is an example of clear parenting support which prevented Mr Lakay from becoming yet another statistic of gangsterism and crime.
“In this case it is clear that the parents have supported their child and saw to it that he doesn’t fall in to the life of crime especially after being a high school drop out.”
“A child is like an empty sponge. If it falls in to the mud it stains but once you put it in water it becomes clean. So if given a second chance in life the child will make a success of it,” he said.