Freedom of Expression Is My Livelihood
I come from a colorful culture. Everything was so vibrant: the talk, the walk, the art. I feel like that history gives me these senses to find things and information. When I was figuring out my path, it was about discovery. Discovering myself, others, peers. I’m studious, I’m a people watcher, and there’s a reason for it.
The hip hop culture was a big inspiration to me. People around me didn’t really approve, they asked, “Why do you want to be different?” And that just added firewood to the fire. But hip hop was the first time we were able to take something and create our own identity within the culture.
My goal is to educate hip hop’s core values and principles through art and be an ambassador to the culture. And I want to focus on the positive. I like to use art to mentor kids and catch them early on, like with the kids who are into street art and graffiti. We share a common interest.
Hip hop is the inspiration, but the message is about the under-privileged, their voices are not being heard. There are a lot of things happening in poor communities, a lot of realities that are not being shared. A lot of abuse of power. Injustices. I can’t drive through North Omaha without getting pulled over. That gives me my passion, my drive. I want to be able to use my voice to help the people. That’s why I paint faces. That’s why I paint elephants.
My work today is changing so much. It’s all a dialogue. Painting on canvas is just like having a conversation with someone. It’s that discovery. There are highs and lows, different energy, active lines, brushstrokes, messes, textures, layers.
My golden principle is to follow my heart and not doubt it.
Gerard Pefung came to the U.S. from his native Cameroon as a teenager in 2001. Drawing on music and cultural influences, he continued nurturing his talent and by his twenties developed a sharp style all his own. Over the last few years his impact on the Omaha street art scene echoed through the Midwest. His work is found on walls and buildings throughout the region, and the events he coordinated have showcased his medium, encouraging the larger community to embrace urban art.
Pefung has drawn on his success to mentor youth and advocate on behalf of public art with a variety of organizations including The Kent Bellows Studio & Center for Visual Arts, The Joslyn Art Museum, Children’s Square, Girls Inc., Omaha Public Schools, Norfolk Public Schools, and the Omaha Police Department. You can find some of his decorative murals at restaurants like Taita, Pig & Finch and Berry & Rye. When he is not painting or mentoring, he is chilling.