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Cocomo’s Coming: In studio with Marcel Herholdt

By Angela de Wet

Word has it that Afro-Pop protest artist Marcel Herholdt is spinning heads with his super-sized brightly coloured Club Cocomo paintings. The artworks, like the artist, are bold, quirky and a lot of fun. ‘REVOLT, REBEL, RETHINK’ appears in large print on a particularly striking piece, aptly conveying the edgy artist’s message. And quite frankly, in times like these, you just wanna grab one and hang it right in your front hallway.

Marcel Herholdt artist

‘Welcome to Club Cocomo,’ Herholdt announces as he carefully undresses his magic in his Greyton-based living room. It’s still pre-exhibition time and I have the honour of a preview. The artist’s voice seems to rattle off into the distance and the back-story of the Club Cocomo world is lost on me, as I tumble into a mammoth decorative display of Picassoesque Afro-fusion funk. Wow!

Simplified, expressionistic faces and figures appear to be confronting my complacency in some hard-to-put-your-finger-on kind of way. Blank eyes on the viewer from all corners of the room. There are caricature animals (mostly cats and birds) also staring out from flatly coloured symbolic-themed spaces that hold keys and still more eyes. Perhaps it is the sharp, jagged patterning used for teeth and borders that nudge me towards some inner ‘call for action’. Or could it be the snake tongues and third eye reminders embedded in the imagery that provoke this sense of something stirring?

At the same time there is an up-beat light-heartedness that flavours the strange Club Cocomo mood. Herholdt’s uncomplicated use of space and pure colour (balanced with the same precision demonstrated in a Matisse or a Kandinsky, just about) make me want to go dancing there. I want to drink from coconuts and wiggle my hips to a bongo while I smoke with the cat who lost his stripes. I want to tango with figures that match those shocking faces, I do! Now I’m quite sure of it, I need a weekend at Club Cocomo!

Fortunately, visiting the artist is a similar experience. Strong coffee, groovy tunes and tasty home-made pizza are among the treats I am enjoying in Herholdt’s creative haven of a country village home. Horses frolic by a stream just outside the front door and one can’t help but be immersed in a free and cheerful sort of feeling – Like Club Cocomo has come a knocking. And it’s spacious and it’s fun. A little like the large letters spelling ‘Liberty’ tattooed along the artist’s forearm. And now that my inner nudging has got my foot a tapping to a Club Cocomo tune, the words of Thomas Merton come to mind: ‘Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.’

Club Cocomo, keep it coming, the journey’s looking bright.   

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