Two emerging illustrators from South Africa

We introduce you to the work of two emerging South African illustrators we met at Design Indaba 2018, both of whose themes and aesthetic styles draw from their cultural heritage

Omo Soldier, by Sonawabo Valashiya

Each year young designers and fresh graduates from across South Africa are welcomed to apply for Design Indaba’s Emerging Creatives programme which is run in partnership with the government’s Department of Arts and Culture. Forty of the best entrants are shortlisted, get a chance to exhibit their work at the festival and attend the conference. Here are two of the artists we met while in Cape Town last month.


“My aim is to tell stories of where I come from and to influence the word into realising the true authentic beauty that is Africa,” says illustrator Valashiya who is part Xhosa, part Sotho.

One of Valashiya’s striking bodies of work is titled Imbokodo, which means rock in Swahili. This is a series of portraits of prolific African women such as anti-apartheid activist Lillian Ngoyi, singer-songwriter Amanda Black and news reader/ humanitarian Noxolo Grootboom among others.

Valashiya’s work is currently on view at his first extensive solo show called Imbeleko Thari: Story of a Black Village Kid in at Mthubi the hub in Pretoria.

Noxolo Grootboom, from the series Imbokodo. @sonwabovalashiya


Like Valashiya, Ntloko is Xhosa and his identity is very much woven into his work and online presence. He calls himself The 21st Century Black Man on Instagram, picking provocative themes for some of his bodies of work; like the lack of education around abortion. A series around this theme was designed to spark a conversation about what he calls the South African government’s inability to crack down on illegal abortion centres.

He works a lot of with photography and self portraiture, placing himself within whimsical narratives. Ntloko says his objective is to educate his contemporaries about their culture and encourage them to embrace their roots.

“The main reason we as the youth don’t know much about our culture is the way it’s being taught to us, so I came up with a way to teach my peers in a way they will understand, through art and social media.”

Ntloko has gone back to study, to the Nelson Mandela university, where he is now working towards a degree in textile designing and technology

 @sonwabovalashiya; @the21stcenturyblackman


Milton Keynes