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Hasan Essop

Current Job: 
Visual Artist exhibiting at the Goodman Gallery; Visual Arts Educator at Wynberg Boys High
Faculty: 
If you are studying Fine Arts go to galleries, go see what you could imagine yourself potentially doing one day.

How I obtained my current position

I worked as an artist since 2008, so making art is my first job. However, it isn’t always the most stable form of work. So I delivered workshops which went really well and thoroughly enjoyed working with students. As a result, I decided to do my Postgraduate Certificate in Education in 2011 and did my teaching practice at Wynberg Boys High. When they needed someone to substitute they called me back to help out in the Visual Arts Department, and I have been working there ever since.

How my degree relates to my work

It relates directly. In applying my training I made choices based on value-based imperatives. I wanted to make a positive impact rather than chasing money. So teaching was about leaving a legacy, specifically in Cape Town, and I found that the best way to do that would be to be working with kids, since they are the next generation of consumers who will help to shape art.

Skills that have contributed to my success

Hard work, commitment, and developing the skills valued in your trade. Keeping up to date with current trends, exhibitions as well as emerging artists is key. You also need to keep abreast of the things people are looking at. Be confident because you get a lot of criticism in this industry and you should be able to filter out the negative and take constructive feedback. In the art world it’s very important to know how to network with all kinds of personalities and to nurture mutual connections that you make – you will need them. Be creative – think out of the box, don’t be afraid to say what you want, voice your opinion. I was comfortable to voice my opinion and people wanted to listen.

Day-to-day activities

Teaching is a full time job. I teach during the day and when I have some free time I usually do some admin. We do a lot of our practical work on location over weekends: setting up props, shooting in the mornings and late afternoons, and post production is usually left to the week. So when I come home I usually do the post-production which is all the editing, at the comfort of my personal computer.

Best & most challenging parts of your job

The most challenging part would be the kids. You don’t know what’s going on with them in their home environment, and they come to school with a lot of that and take it out on you and you don’t really know where it all comes from. So dealing with a lot of different types of personalities in the classroom with kids that are really disrespectful. I have had moments where I questioned what I am doing. It’s definitely an occupation where you need a lot of patience and understanding, but you need to know that it’s not coming out of a place that is targeting you. When you are a young teacher they try to take advantage of you and push their limits to see how far they can go. But the positive is when you realise that you actually taught them something when you look at their work and see something that you shared with them. That’s actually the most rewarding when you see that some of them want to specialize in Fine Arts and take up the challenge of becoming an artist.

Involvement at UCT

Unfortunately I didn’t, I was on Hiddingh Campus, and so I was quite separated from Upper Campus. When you are on Hiddingh you are quite isolated and end up spending your time in the studio with school work. We had our own clique within Fine Arts because there are only about 65 students, most of them girls, with six to nine boys. So we stuck to ourselves.

Gaining a competitive edge while at UCT 

Whatever field they are in, you should explore the career that you find yourself in. While you are studying, I think you should visit relevant companies. If you are studying Fine Arts go to galleries, go see what you could imagine yourself potentially doing one day. Visit artists in their studios and ask questions. Speak to professionals. Also as a Fine Arts student make work that could be in a gallery. Because in Fine Arts your fourth year work is the most important work you will make in your life since it is the stepping stone into the art world.

Advice for graduates entering the world of work 

All attention is on Cape Town in 2014 as the Design Capital of the World. This is the time and place to push that limit and make thought-provoking work, that’s going to make a difference and some sort of impact. Africa in general and South Africa in particular, is very colourful. There are lots of things you can speak about; there are a lot of things that haven’t been spoken about. There is a huge interest in Africa and African art. This time is a very good time to be a creative individual.

About approaching your own career development journeys

Set goals. Once you have a destination in mind, then you can build the route – there are many routes and that makes for an exciting journey.