Creatives of Jozi: Collaging With Drash

Discover the fascinating world of collaging and its connection to mental health and Johannesburg’s unique atmosphere. In celebration of Youth Day, we dive into the creative world of an incredible, young and talented artist based in our beloved City of Gold.
In this exclusive Q&A session, Saahirah Ismail chats with collaging enthusiast and a dear friend, Drashti AKA Drash to explore the captivating realm of collaging, delve into the intricacies of mental health, and uncover the unique experience of living in Johannesburg.

Saahirah: What inspired you to pursue collaging as your artistic medium, and how has it evolved over time?

Drash: During the pandemic, as we all felt trapped, I did an art therapy workshop surrounding the theme of “Growth” led by Julia Volonts. To sit at my desk and self-soothe whilst creating with people around the world via Zoom call, was cathartic and inspiring. It was mentally and emotionally freeing to create art via distance yet still be so connected to other people. The love affair with collage as a medium was instant and I found myself cutting pictures out for hours and landed up making 27 artworks within a few weeks.

S: Johannesburg is a city rich in culture and history. How does the city inspire and influence your artwork?

D: The material I use is mostly sourced from books about Southern Africa. The language surrounding Black and Brown bodies in these books is often “othering” and in some cases cruel, hence my need and want to celebrate natural and man-made landscapes rather than give attention to the ugly and extremely outdated words. Living in Linden in Johannesburg has shown me people of different cultures, races and gender identities mixing and mingling together because of our differences and celebrating these rather than ignoring or ostracising each other because of them, like in times past.

Joburg is a beautiful mix of urban cityscapes and the natural environment and this juxtapositioning of humans in nature is a theme I explore often in my pieces; how we as humans fit, don’t fit and are forcibly misfitted into nature, time and space. We are supposedly a part of nature and yet somehow are not.

S: Collaging is a versatile art form that often involves repurposing existing materials. How do you source and select materials for your collages, and what significance do they hold in your artwork?

D: I gravitate towards old resources and history books like Readers’ Digest and the old Life Series books because of the vintage print texture that the images have. I love vivid colours and textures that exist separately from each other and use them to build collage layers, creating a new surreal, absurd or abstract art piece. I use real images to illustrate a new realm between the real world and the imagined. It is so rewarding to pay homage to human creativity and resourcefully reuse discarded books to make new art using images from the past. To transform these pictures into something new and serendipitously harmonious feels like breathing new life into objects that have been long forgotten about. It gives both me and the material a purpose. There is so much value to source in discarded books.

S: Your collages often convey powerful narratives and evoke emotions. Could you share some examples of themes or messages you explore in your work, and why these are important to you?

D: I strive to evoke emotion and encourage reflection through these surreal pieces. By layering textures, colours and contexts, a depth to existence after the pandemic is created. It is so absurd how time passes and we are seemingly bumbling our way through life and space that I found myself exploring this feeling throughout my work. A visual representation of the full spectrum of human emotion that we as a species were collectively forced to endure and navigate during the lockdown.

Collage art has become a place and medium through which I have navigated healing from past traumas as well as illustrating how absurd it can feel to push through life with all the challenges life brings. Through this absurdity, I aim to create a space where people can feel seen, find comfort and engage with complex topics and emotions that ultimately reflect the fragility and resilience of the human spirit. Grief, anger, isolation, joy, groundedness, interconnection and sense of self – these are all concepts I explore and encourage people interacting with my art to explore. It is safe to do so when you are sitting alone, creating and feeling.

All of these things are linked by the common thread of human experiences and the innate interconnectedness of all living things in time and space. I appreciate the duality in life; of both knowing and not knowing an outcome. This is why I collage.

S: As a collaging artist in Johannesburg, what role do you believe art plays in engaging and impacting the local community, and how do you actively contribute to this?

D: Art has a restorative power, whether you are creating or interacting with art. I insist that we as humans must explore our full range of emotions and existence. Explore the depths of ourselves and embrace the vulnerability of authentically being ourselves. This is my aim in running workshops and encouraging people of all ages to make. In whatever format we find inspiring, MAKE. In order to heal and navigate an overwhelming and ever-changing world, I highly recommend MAKING something. It is impossible to ignore what we collectively went through during the lockdown and pandemic.

It is both surreal and absurd to think we can “return to life as normal” without addressing the emotions we felt during that period. Through collage and art we can, as a community, heal and find a new normal where we all fit in.

Drash is based in Linden, Johannesburg and will be hosting her first workshop in August 2023. For workshop enquiries, collaborations, commissions and prints please email:

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