After a life of dealing drugs, this art teacher paints a second chance
Shades of darkness lingered over Mark Jeneker’s life. He’d dealt drugs in Mitchells Plain for over 20 years, did time in prison, and eventually began using the substances he sold. After being kicked out of rehab, it took the death of both his teenage sons to stop Jeneker in his tracks. He couldn’t continue this way. “I was in extreme pain. I lost everything,” Jeneker says. “But my life wasn’t over.” Drawing from his childhood passion for art, he created opportunities that continue to colour his story today.
While trying to get clean, Jeneker picked up a brush and started painting to calm his mind. When he didn’t have the funds for his son’s funeral, Jeneker sold his art to pay for the ceremony. He realised then that he could use his abilities to give back to the community he’d been taking from. For so long, Jeneker had the power to destroy children’s lives by selling drugs to them. But with art, he could inspire them to strive for more. So Jeneker began offering free classes to schools in Mitchells Plain.
It’s been seven years since Jeneker chose this path. Today he’s a role model, a LeadSA hero, and the owner of his own studio. “It’s my way to provide a skill and a safe space in my community,” Jeneker says. Other teachers have commented on how kids in his classes develop a feverish excitement for the work they make with him. Children who’ve been flagged as trouble students thrive under Jeneker’s mentorship. “I truly believe that art can be our salvation,” he says. From a dark canvas to a vivid portrait, Jeneker is using his talent to create second chances.