Encountering one of Lakwena’s striking artworks in person is enough to stop you dead in your tracks. Over the last decade, she has built up a cult fanbase for her large-scale painted murals, which feature an intoxicating combination of vivid colours, striking patterns and bold statements that aim to uplift and inspire – from ‘Together We Stand’ to ‘The Best is Yet to Come’. The artist is gradually taking over public spaces across the world with these hopeful affirmations, thanks to commissions ranging from a monastery in Vienna, to London’s Southbank Centre, to a youth detention centre in Arkansas.
The London-based artist, whose full name is Lakwena Maciver, was born in north London and spent time in both Uganda and Ethiopia while growing up, before her family decided to settle back in her home city. While she was into art and creativity from a young age, as a teenager Lakwena says she originally wanted to be an accountant. Thankfully, she had an epiphany that led her back to her true calling in the creative industries.
“I became a bit disillusioned with the system, not that I knew that much about it,” the artist tells CR. “I think my dad had a big part to play in it; he very much wanted me to get a good job in the traditional sense, but then he struggled to get jobs. So that I think is what made me give up on that way of thinking, that approach to life, that if you worked really hard and studied really hard, you could get a job and be successful.”