Lauren Beukes’ award-winning science fiction novel Zoo City has exerted a strong influence on my work. Set in Hillbrow, the zoo city of the title, it features characters mysteriously attached to animal familiars as a form of punishment. Zoo City is riotous, chaotic and completely crazy and I loved the way it brought to life the animal energy that lurks just beneath the surface of the city.
After reading the book, I started experimenting with placing animals in cityscapes, both the kind that are found in cities (dogs and cats) and those that exist in Johannesburg only as metaphors – sharks and crocodiles, for example.
I’ve used a limited palette of black, grey and red to evoke the dystopian atmosphere of the city, its grey grittiness a contrast to throbbing red life. The Zoo City series led to my experiments with Ngunis, which have taken me in a more colourful direction.