Meet this multi-hyphenate creative duo

 The creators behind Khakoon and The Great Yawn on their new album and online store.

Husband and wife musician-artists Dan Bakkes and Brendon Erasmus

Talk of multi-hyphenates becoming the vanguard of the creative economy is widespread. Though the term originally sprang up in Hollywood in the 1970s, it’s found its groove in the gig economy and ever more so between the permeable borders of the arts.  Husband and wife musician-artists Dan Bakkes and Brendon Erasmus are a stellar example, burning bright with the June 2020 release of their ethereal second studio album The Waves, the Tide and the Moon and simultaneously launching Khakoon, their online craft and design store under the notion that “home is the future”. Khakoon is home to a selection of tactile and earthy artworks, textiles, ceramics and posters all produced by the couple.

Whether you come away with an album or an artwork, the spectrum of their creative output is inherently linked by a sense of intimacy, femininity and originality. We chat to the Pretoria-based duo about the hustle.

How do your skills in art and music speak to one another, can notes become strokes or colours melodies?

For us, there are similarities in the processes of making, playing, writing etc. For one, they are all cathartic processes. Perhaps that’s one way in which they speak to one another – on an emotional level of sorts.

Whether we are or aren’t in fact suffering from synaesthesia is anyone’s guess.

Is it distracting switching between the various creative disciplines?

It can be. At times, we feel that going down one particular path may be a wiser decision. But it’s not that simple. Perhaps at some point the opportunity to do so will be self-evident, but up to this point we have found reasons to run different projects congruently. The reasons are not self-explanatory either, although it may simply be that we love cooking on an open flame as much as we enjoy using the oven. Sometimes, when you’re in a hurry, it means using the microwave. Either way, one has to eat. In other words, there is a variety of methods to achieve the necessary creative outcomes. 

You launched Khakoon in the beginning of lockdown, what prompted the decision at such a difficult time?

We started work on the project in 2019. At the beginning of lockdown we were still photographing all the works and decided to keep going just to keep ourselves busy. When everything was done and ready to launch, we may have delayed for a few weeks, but ultimately we just figured that we needed to go for it. It seemed obvious enough at the time that this pandemic wouldn’t just blow over in a few weeks. So, even if people were just window shopping for a while, we would have to be okay with it. And in any case, that’s just the inherent nature of being an artist; there is hardly ever an expedient path. 

There’s a definite aesthetic vein that connects your Khakoon pieces and even your album styling, can you describe it?

I suppose we were consciously and/or unconsciously playing with the idea of materiality, which began with the album styling, and which we carried through in some of KHAKOON’s aesthetic. There is this veiled aspect to some of the album’s photography. It’s fluid, and light and free, not unlike some of the artworks. On a more philosophical and ethereal level, the aesthetic represents something of a liminal space that needs to be entered into or passed through and there’s a feminine figure, or guide, to do that: the hero, the protagonist, is feminine. She is a beacon of light passing through. The artworks and music have the same feminine energy behind them. Nature – which is feminine and abstract – is the backdrop for pretty much all the inspiration behind KHAKOON and The Great Yawn.

Apart from the aesthetic, what is the concept that brings all your Khakoon products together?

Conceptually, we’ve drawn from nature with all its life and beauty and decay. The delicacy of it all is what inspires us to create with particular mediums and processes. Imperfections, mutations, and textures to incite tactile responses are high up on our desired outcomes list. The awareness of space is another important one. Whether it’s between abstract shapes, lines, curves, or the space contained within objects, or the space inhabited by objects; these are paths we seek out for ourselves, and the lines we attempt to draw between objects and artworks.

Does The Great Yawn audience cross over with your Khakoon audience?

This was something we loosely aimed at, although it wasn’t the ultimate destination, not now anyway. Perhaps more so in the future, however there has certainly been a crossover to some degree.

If your new album The Waves, The Tide and The Moon were a painting, what would it look like?

The current album cover art was a wedding gift from our friendly neighbour and fellow artist Leanne Olivier a few months before the album’s release. For us, it eloquently captured the mood and feel of the album in a visual work of art and everything else that was going on in our lives at the time.

Are there any plans to add to Khakoon with a new collection, like wall hangings or rugs for example?

Great idea! We plan to work on a new collection soon and some odd pieces in between. 

You’ve dedicated a whopping 20% of sales revenue to charity, who is it going to and why childcare and education?

We’ve shared with Boys and Girls Town, The Click Foundation, and the feeding scheme Ladles of Love. We’re very happy to keep supporting those who are making a difference in the lives of future generations. We personally feel the greatest, and perhaps the most urgent need, is for the care and nurturing of young and vulnerable children. | @khakoon_ | @thegreatyawn

You can download the new album, The Waves, The Tide and The Moon, on Spotify and Apple Music.

Interview: Mila Crewe-Brown
Production: JP de la Chaumette
Images: Bernard Brand (portraits)