Art teacher puts colour back into the community

Pictured in front, right is art teacher Mark Jeneker, from Lentegeur, who launched his namesake foundation and art studio. With him is his mother Sheila Williams, from Lentegeur, and his fiance Carol Cupido, from Charlesville.

A Mitchell’s Plain art teacher has touched the lives of dozens of children, teaching them to express themselves with a bit of colour and simple brush strokes.

Mark Jeneker, 52, from Lentegeur, made history when he became the first artist to launch a studio in Mitchell’s Plain on Friday September 21.

Speaking at the launch of the Mark Jeneker Art Studio and Foundation at the Alliance Francaise, in Wall Street Portland, he said helping children at Town Centre library about six years ago had at first been an escape from his past and an attempt at saving his soul.

At the time, he lived in Eastridge and taught up to 40 pupils at the library before volunteering at Yellowwood Primary School, in Tafelsig.

About four months ago he started teaching at Westville Primary School, in Westridge.

His studio will be open to pupils daily, except Sundays, between 4pm and 6pm and for adults between 6.30pm and 9pm; and Saturday mornings.

They will be taught visual art, including using pencil, charcoals, pastelles, paint and sculpting.

“I am self taught and was artistic from childhood. Art saved me and taught me that I can do something other than be involved in negativity,” he said.

Mr Jeneker said about six years ago he went to the library to make some changes in his life but was high on drugs while speaking to children there.

“No ladder can climb to that height but I made a change,” he said.

Mr Jeneker said he had dropped out of school in Grade 8, due to gang violence in Hanover Park (“’Plain artist sparks creativity”, Plainsman, January 28 2015).

When he left school, he mixed with the wrong friends, a decision which landed him in prison for five years for robbery.

Mr Jeneker said he had wasted 46 years of his life, because of drugs and gangsterism, but, he added: “God wanted me to go in the world and get all of that experience, run through all the bullets, smoke all of the pipes, blow lollies, make all the nonsense, so that I can come testify to others, what good God has made in my life,” he said.

Two years ago Mr Jeneker was honoured with the Best contribution to Crafts and Design award, by the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and about six months later he was LeadSA’s Hero of the month for August (“Hero of the Month”, Plainsman, November 9 2016).

Westville Primary School principal Cheryl Baker said she had read about Mr Jeneker in the Plainsman. “He has made a profound difference at our school,” she said.

“Your dream has been realised Mr Jeneker. Pupils are able to express themselves not just in reading or writing but through art. The pupils enjoy what they are doing and display their work with pride,” she added.

Hajira Sydow, a librarian at Town Centre library, said he transports the children’s imaginations away from the social ills they face at home. “We all know the reality our youth face but we need to look at a positive view to enthuse them,” she said.