The oldest art objects in the world — 100,000-year-old paint making kits — were discovered in a South African oceanside cave in 2012. As human population grew and expanded across and beyond Africa, art enabled us to analyze events, create meaning and integrate lessons into our lives. Mark Modimola, a South African artist, illustrator and designer, is now adding to that long history in collaboration with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center on a new project that explores themes of nature, time, access, hope, healing and the future.

“I view art not only as a pastime or a hobby or something that brings people joy. Being an artist is a responsibility. You become a flag bearer for your times. So, my responsibility is to be vigilant and make a response,” said Modimola, who says he is attracted to color and texture as he examines African identity and spirituality through portraiture and surrealism.

The thought he puts into his work is one of the reasons Fred Hutch’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion chose Modimola as the first artist for their Public Art and Community Dialogue Program. An artwork he created through the program was installed on top of the Yale Building on the Hutch campus, facing the I-5 Mercer Street interchange, on June 21. It replaces the Black Lives Matter banner currently on display.

That BLM banner was put up in response to the murder of George Floyd and the resulting nationwide protests against police brutality. Modimola’s artwork isn’t so much a replacement of the banner as it is the next logical step for Fred Hutch to reflect community solidarity and sustain the conversation.

“This program offers us an opportunity to make an authentic statement about community, health and healing within the context of persistent social detractors of health, like racism and other systems of oppression,” said Dr. Paul Buckley, vice president for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Fred Hutch. “We wanted to respond to the injustices happening around us with a series of images that reinforce our dedication to affirm the lives of marginalized communities — from the Black community to the Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander, LGBTQIA+ and Jewish communities.”

Read the full article about art for healing by Robert Hood at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.