The two sides of Nare Mokgotho, comedy director and acclaimed visual artist

Massïf’s director and co-owner Nare Mokgotho has quickly established himself as one of our country’s rising comedy directors with a reel injected with razor-sharp comic timing rooted in grounded performances. Now for most biographies that would be enough, but Nare is also an award-winning visual artist, who has been exhibiting worldwide for over 13 years. We caught up with him to find out where these two worlds of art and commercial directing collide.

Nare the director

In 2018 Nare made the leap to directing and hitting the ground running, he won two Gold Screen Awards at the 20th Edition of the Young Directors Award for his first two commercials. Yes, he is the face behind that Showmax ad ‘Zero Bucks Given’! Before breaking into production, Nare spent five years in the ad game as a copywriter for agencies such as Grey, Saatchi & Saatchi and J. Walter Thompson. He then went on to become a researcher at Velocity Films under Peter Carr (who is now Nare’s Executive Producer at Massïf) and worked alongside some of the top directors in the country for 7 years before he took his rightful place in the directing chair.

SHOWMAX ‘Zero Bucks Given’

HIPPO ‘Alaska’

Rapidlion ‘Wreaths’

Nare the Artist

Nare is currently exhibiting his artwork at documenta which takes place in the German city of Kassel every five years. documenta an exhibition which along with the Venice Biennial is widely considered the most significant exhibition in the international contemporary art field. For the past 13 years, Nare has worked collaboratively with Molemo Moiloa as part of the Johannesburg-based interdisciplinary artist collaboration MADEYOULOOK. MADEYOULOOK explores everyday Black practices that have either been historically overlooked or deemed inconsequential in their work. Their art is a reworking and interrupting of how we view ordinary Black lived experiences and the everyday. While exhibiting in Germany, the duo is also completing their fellowship at the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program, one of the world’s most respected artist-in-residence programmes for established artists.

Left: Installation view of Mafolofolo: a place of recovery (2022) at documenta 15, courtesy MADEYOULOOK and documenta15, photograph by Frank Sperling. Right: Installation documentation of non-monuments programme (arch edition) at Frac Pays de la Loire, France (2013), courtesy MADEYOULOOK, photographs Frac Pays de la Loire. 

Calling in from Berlin, and despite having just forgotten his laptop in an uber, Nare is as calm and cheerful as ever and spoke to us about the relationship between his directing and artmaking.

Q: An award-winning director AND artist, pfft, talk about showing off! How do you manage to excel at two such different disciplines?

Nare: Haha, well, they are not different in the sense that they are both about understanding and working with ideas. My art training and my time at creative agencies were both very conceptual, mainly about making the idea primary and that’s my approach to all the work I make.

Q: Your directing reel is full of comedy spots whereas your artwork deals with far more serious messages, are there any similarities in subject matter?

Nare: My artwork is very concerned with everyday black practices in South Africa and that is very much about turning the eye and consideration away from trauma and black suffering to levity, love, very simple things that we are not always afforded in the popular imaginary. Those are the things that I like to explore, and humour for me is a natural extension of those preoccupations. I am concerned with the everyday. My directing work is all very much about a grounded humour even though it might have absurdist surreal elements that punctuate the work. The performances are never slapstick, the ideas, if they are hyperbolised are done so in ways where they are still about everyday experiences that people go through and that is something that stretches across the two careers that I navigate.

Q: Is there any correlation between your approach to the work as an artist vs the work you produce as a commercial director?

Nare: I think the correlation lies with the fascination with ideas. In my art practice, the work that I have produced now for documenta has emerged from 5 years of research, so it’s based upon ideas on ideas on ideas and it’s very layered and on a different scale. Within the commercial sphere, the idea is almost a firecracker size and I enjoy the immediacy of those ideas. I love getting a message across in 30 or 45 seconds and making the audience feel something.

Nare Mokgotho, Photograph by RicardoMarcusK

Q: Navigating two such successful careers must be a lot of work, how do you manage?

Nare: Massïf has been very supportive from day one, it’s always been a space that has encouraged other creative pursuits. Everyone at Massïf explores several creative passions and for this moment in my life that happens to be my art. And of course, Massïf offers such strong production support, so I can focus completely on my directing there.

Nare is currently working between Cape Town, Johannesburg and Berlin and adds: ‘If a script is funny and it’s a good idea, I’m on a plane.’ Wanna (s)talk some more? Massïf on IDIDTHAT and Company Website.

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