John Koenakeefe Mohl

Title Artist
Other Names
Date of Birth 1903-01-28
Date of Death 1985-00-00


Updated 16 Oct 2016

Mohl  was born in  Dinokana, in 1903, and in died Soweto, Johannesburg in 1985. Koenakeefe means "little crocodile". Mohl inherited an artistic talent from his father who was  a sculptor at Dinokana in the Lehurutshe region. When still a boy, Mohl used to draw on rock faces and make objects from river clay, which he then fired to produce simple sculptures. He attended primary school in Dinokana, but was more interested in art than in conventional school subjects. This angered his father who sent him to herd goats, but even here he spent more time drawing on rocks than attending to his duties as a herder. His grandfather, kgosi (chief) Marogoe, then took him under his wing, allegedly paying his fines for when he was negligent at his duties.

Mohl then went to school in Mafikeng, where his talent was recognized by the Rev. Hale of the London Missionary Society, whilst on a visit to the school. With the cooperation of the grandfather, Hale arranged for Mohl to attend Tiger Kloof Training College where he obtained a Teachers' Diploma.
Mohl then moved to Namibia (then South-West Africa) studying at the Windhoek School of Art and to Germany, where he studied art at the Kunst Akadmie in Dusseldorf.  He returned to South Africa and opened a school in Sophiatown, thus becoming one of the first significant African art teachers in the country. He went on to teach at several other schools in Soweto. Mohl was an accomplished landscape and portrait artist in his own right. Among his better known works were a portrait of the baMangwato paramount Tshekedi Khama, with whom he had a close personal relationship, and "Magaliesberg in mid-winter". He also exhibited at the Piccadilly Gallery in London in 1965.   

South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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