Sarita Immelman: Finding art in meat and mozzies

The Johannesburg illustrator has received two Cannes and 11 Loerie awards this year.

Art is money, given the right opportunity, proposes Sarita Immelman, a 40-year-old Johannesburg illustrator whose work garnered two Cannes Lions and 11 Loeries this year.

With 17 years experience, this workaholic says that illustration is entering a revival across the world and it’s time for South Africans to catch up.

“There is a lot of work for big brands and big corporate identities, specifically to lock down their illustration style because nobody ever did that before for some weird reason. “So we are doing a lot of that kind of work and it’s interesting that there is a lot more money coming into illustration nowadays as opposed to a couple of years ago,” she says. “We call it the second golden age of illustration,” Immelman’s business partner, Marcelle Laubuschagne, adds.

Immelman was approached by Grid Worldwide Branding to work on the Design Grand Prix for Marble Openflame Dining, along Rosebank’s Keyes Art Mile.

“The whole idea of Marble was to merge the fatty marble you get on meat with stone marble.

“Particularly the bar panel upstairs, the brief about that was to make something ordinary feel a bit elevated and I think that’s the concept of the whole place. Meat, we all eat meat every day, but even in the butchery it’s displayed like jewels – it’s a little bit special.”

At first glance, it’s an ordinary visual of a bull in a grassy landscape. When you look longer, the line-work becomes decadent, bulging muscle fibres and flowering ribcages mirroring butterflied beef.

It pays tribute, she says, to the animal that gave us his beautiful delicious flesh to indulge in. It was cut out of wood with a CNC router and painted with layers of enamel by Damien Grivas.

Her work for Marble also comprised designs for The Butchery by Marble. This comprised wall tile illustrations of various anthropomorphic animals tied up Shibari style (Japanese rope binding art).

“It echoes a lot of the macramé work in the main restaurant and also the way cured meats are stored.”

The work that won her two Cannes Lions, an international award on a par with that of the Cannes Film Festival, was her illustrations on a branding campaign for NGO Goodbye Malaria.

The campaign was a bid to eradicate the disease in Mozambique through an innovative hut-spraying programme.

“The idea was to make patterns resembling the pathogens under a microscope, created to look like Mozambique’s iconic capulana fabric.

“The illustrations were used throughout the CI and on all packaging. They were also applied to traditional fabrics to expand on the existing Goodbye Malaria clothing range.

“These patterns respond to real data, disappearing as Malaria cases are reduced. Each year, they will reprint the designs to reflect this.”

This campaign also won two Loeries. Now Immelman wants to use her influence and expertise to offer young South African artists what she wished she was afforded as a young unestablished artist 17 years ago. She and Laubushchagne are launching their own illustration company, hopefully this year.

“The general vision for Fresh Helga is to basically create the environment I needed when I was a kid starting out. A way for a young illustrator to finish studying and go and work somewhere and be able to make money to support yourself immediately and not have to build a reputation before you do it. I can help you make money right now because I have too much work.”

You can visit and send them your link. “If you have the talent we can work out a deal to suit your lifestyle,” says Immelman. –

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