Lawena stands in front of her designed and colourful Mini classic. The side of the car reads “BIG LOVE”.
Colourful, bold and very, very loud. London-based artist Lakwena Maciver has transformed a classic Mini into a work of art full of joy and Big Love for MINI Recharged.
Lakwena, 36, has redesigned a classic Mini (built in 1986 and specially selected by MINI according to Lakwena’s year of birth) to create an electrifying new work of art. And it’s not only visually impressive. Lakwena’s Mini is an ambassador for the MINI Recharged project, where we convert classic Minis into modern-day electric ones – sustainable upcycling, you could say. We interviewed Lakwena to learn more about her story, her work and the inspiration behind her magnificent Mini.
Portrait Portrait

- How did it feel when you first saw your electrified classic Mini?

I thought it looked incredible. It was so nice to see the colours all working, the interior, the exterior. I saw bits as it progressed, but to see it all together is so special. Because it started with a drawing. And that was just me imagining how I’d like the car to look, almost like a dream car. Just drawing it with my pen and pencil on the paper. But to see it now in the flesh is incredible.


- The classic Mini is iconic while your art is incredibly bold. Is that a clash?

I think there’s some clash and some harmony. I like the fact the Mini is this iconic and classic car and all those touches are still there; we haven’t concealed that or put plastic on top of it. So the original is still there, but we injected it with a bit of colour. I think altogether the clash really works.


- Does your personal vision come across?

Yeah, I feel like it has got my personal vision in it. It started off as a drawing, but going back and looking at it, it feels like there is a lot of dreaming in it. And that’s not something I necessarily intended. But seeing all that colour and all that pattern and just the vibe of the car – it takes you somewhere else. Because we’re used to seeing a car as something quite practical, you know, we paint them in dark colours, so they don’t show up dirt, but to see something so vibrant feels quite fantastical – so I’m really happy about it.

At work in her studio: Lakwena is sketching the design concept for her classic Mini. Her basic tools for the job: pen and paper.
Alt-Tag: Two close-ups in Lakwena’s studio. One shows her creating a sketch, the other shows painting utensils.

- As part of the MINI Recharged project, what are your thoughts on sustainability?

I’m really happy to be part of this project because it feels very important. It’s really responding to what our world needs right now, which is actual change. Changes away from things that damage the environment to things that are sustainable. I’m just happy to be part of it because it’s genuinely meaningful. It’s gonna make a difference. And, for big brands like MINI to be making changes is really powerful because it will have a big impact on others in the industry.


- What does sustainable mobility mean to you?

It’s moving and driving without causing damage to the environment in a way that sustains our environment rather than damaging it. To make sure the world will be good and healthy for our children, grandchildren and for the future. So it’s about making changes that are good for the environment.


- Is there any detail you particularly like?

I really like the hands on the front. That’s one of my favourite parts. It feels, again, like it takes you somewhere else and adds a different layer of meaning.

1st image: Close-up of a sprayed car element. 2nd  image: Image of a colourful sprayed car wing.  3rd  image: Image of Lakwena, looking happy about the painting of her classic Mini.  4th image: Close-up of Lakwena’s logo on her unique MINI Recharged model.
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- What are the ideas behind the slogans you’ve used?

It says ‘BIG LOVE’ on both sides. On the front it says ‘we are here’ and on the back it says ‘you were there’. It speaks about travelling, it talks about migration. There is this phrase which is quite well known that says, ‘we are here because you were there’. It’s referencing colonialism and empire and migration. And the fact that British culture is so influenced by the journeys people have taken, and that people from former colonies are all in this country. And the different ways that we have enriched the culture. Culture is this mish-mash of different things. And I think that’s a very beautiful thing, something I want to celebrate. And I want to celebrate all the different journeys people have been on and that brought them to this place.


- Do you have a personal connection to MINI?

My family had a Mini back in the day, and my older sister learned to drive in a classic Mini. So, my dad taught her, and she and him would be in the front, and me and my siblings would be in the back. And we just were her audience when she was learning to drive.

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Lakwena was born to a Ugandan father and British mother in London in 1986, where she still lives. For two years, Lakwena and MINI have been linked by a partnership, full of creative and unique collaborations. She has previously painted the side of a factory tower in Munich as part of the BIG LOVE campaign. Lakwena graduated from the renowned London College of Communication (LCC) with a degree in Graphic Design in 2009. She rose to prominence with her large-scale murals adorned with designs inspired by utopianism and Afrofuturism. Her hallmark is multi-coloured kaleidoscopic patterns, combined with slogans. You can find out more about her here.

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Later that afternoon, we visit Ridley Road in the borough of Hackney. Her view on life, her art and her vision were all nurtured by this area. We stroll through Ridley Road Market, a mix of Asian-inspired bazaars and African market stalls: towers of flame red chillies, mountains of earthy yams, naked chickens on hooks, golden lamb kebabs alongside jet-black lentil curries. Traders sell gold jewellery and bracelets. Tarot readers predict big futures for little money. An older man greets us. He comes from Uganda, like Lakwena’s father. They greet each other in their language and share a few words. Lakwena’s studio is located on the first floor of an old warehouse. A small, creatively messy room. Bits and bobs get lost on the windowsill – hair oil, postcards, flyers and a keyring adorned with the phrase: “The best is yet to come”.

- How does this neighbourhood inspire you?

The MINI is this iconic part of British heritage and that tends to be viewed in a Eurocentric, white, English aesthetic. But there is so much more; there are so many different cultures that have contributed to British culture and what it is now. And that’s what I was thinking about – and how Ridley Road is a microcosm of that. You see so many different cultures that have come from all over the world to make here their home. I wanted to reflect that in how I designed this Mini, in the words, but also in the pattern and the colour. To celebrate travelling and migration and all these different stories. The different journeys that have come together to make this culture what it is.


- Do you feel most at home here?

I guess I do because there are so many people like me from different places. This place reminds me a lot of childhood memories of East Africas.

In car

- To sum up the project, what does it mean to you?

I just feel very honoured to be able to have my artwork on a classic Mini. Because it’s an icon of British culture and I’m really proud of it. So that’s really the most significant thing for me. It’s just incredible to have that. It’s just got so much history; everyone knows MINI as a brand so to be able to collaborate with them, and not just on a wall but to put my imagery onto a car, is incredible. I’m just really happy.


- How do you want people to react to the car?

I hope they feel and sense that warmth. I hope they have a smile on their faces when they look at the car. Because the point is really to uplift – it’s a celebration of British culture. That’s what I’d like it to be seen as.

Car rear
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MINI Recharged


Tradition meets pioneering technology. MINI Recharged is our exciting project to breathe new (electric-powered) life into old models. We do it by working with trusted partners to replace the original combustion engine with a shiny new electric motor, promising all the charm of the classic but with zero driving emissions.


Making classic Minis more sustainable is just a small part of our Big Love goal to make the planet and its people happier. You can learn loads more about it at our Big Love Hub below.

MINI Big Love

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