Street artist Mamafaka is dead, R.I.P.

34-year old creator of hairy monster Mr. Hellyeah seen on shirts, bags, skateboards, even furniture dies in Phuket swimming accident.


R.I.P, Mamafaka


Pharuephon Mukdasanit, one of Thailand's most prominent graphic designers and street artists, passed away yesterday morning after being in a coma for 48 hours.

While holidaying in Phuket, he was swimming and appeared to be drowning, and was rescued by friends and life guards. He was sent to Krungthep Phuket Hospital, but did not regain consciousness and later stopped breathing. He was 34.

The news has shocked design and graphics circles in Bangkok.

Pharuephon, better known by his moniker Mamafaka, created one of the most recognisable characters in Thai pop art: Mr Hellyeah, a mustachioed, hairy, monster-like character that appeared in different incarnations in picture frames, paintings, T-shirts, shoes, skateboards, bags, furniture, iPhone cases and graffiti art. Many of these creations were featured in international fashion and design magazines.

"I grew up watching cartoons after the news. I often questioned what would happen if there weren't any cartoons after the news. What would I be waiting for? I merged Mr Hellyeah with my favourite characters. I think the viewers can look at them, and think that they're cute while some might spot something more eerie lurking underneath," Pharuephon said in an interview with Life last October.

Pharuephon was born in Khon Kaen. After finishing a vocational course, he joined the graphic design department at Rangsit University, where he fell in love with the art.

He briefly worked for an advertising agency, but left to start a collective called B.O.R.E.D. in 2002 with six other designers. The group was responsible for many events in terms of visual and graphic elements that shaped the landscape of Bangkok street art and pop-cultural enthusiasm - from the Fat Festival to Tiger Translate.

The success of Mr Hellyeah made it clear that Pharuephon would soon launch his own line of products. He was also actively creating fine art for gallery exhibitions.

"I know that there are a lot of Mr Hellyeahs around these days, aren't there?" he said in an interview. "I'd like to think that I've learned how to negotiate arts and commercialisation during my time at the ad agency. I'm trying not to go overboard, or else my works can become overdone. What happens when I become bored of Mr Hellyeah? Well, I'll move on to something else."

"Life should never be about fixating on one thing."

About the author

Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer