Illustrating Africa: In Vivid Color With Nokwanda Themba


NOKWANDA THEMBA is a young artist on her creative hustle. The 20-year old is self taught in all things illustration. The artist, designer and freelance contemporary illustrator is also co-curator and writer for the ever-lovely Dynamic Africa. Themba is a lover of ink with a focus on sketching and drawing. She also has a penchant for collage art, delving deep into vivid colors and block patterns. Not bad in front of the camera either, Themba is a natural fashionista of Zambian and South African origin. She’s currently studying BSc in Human Physiology at the University of Pretoria.

Peep our interview below to find out what Nokwanda Themba’s illustration jones is all about.


ADA: How did you get started? Who gets you going?

NT: Art has always been a part of my life. The earliest memory I have was of a quirky sketch I made of Nelson Mandela in the 3rd grade. That’s where it took off. I’ve always been a creative in all aspects of my life. From annoying my mother by stealing her old clothing and making creations of my own to being the most handy DIY person around. Literally making anything with my hands to being great with words and writing to being good with photography as well (check out my Instagram!).


I cannot think of any other way of living but to create. In high school, I excelled in Painting but now I’ve found a home in contemporary illustration. I find constant inspiration from artists/illustrators like Sindiso Nyoni, Brianna McCarthyTony Gum, Amicollective, Azrah Osman and Thandi Tshabalala to name a few. It gives me life and constantly reminds me of who I am outside my responsibilities and the hustle and bustle of life.


ADA: What’s your vibe as an artist?

NT: My work is contemporary, colorful, vibrant and quirky at times. It reflects my spirit as well as how I choose to see things. I’m able to use different kinds of media as well. I strive to make my work aesthetically beautiful, pleasing to the eye, especially my depictions of Black Women. She becomes a God of some sort in my work. Dynamic, Exalted.


ADA: Do you prefer illustration by hand or by digital means and why?

NT: I prefer working by hand. It becomes more original. I find it a blessing that I did not go to any art school and that I am self taught. My work, I feel, is original and imperfect, I only use digital applications to tweak and perfect my work.


ADA: What’s the life of a Neuroscience student and artist like in Pretoria these days?

NT: Haha! Pretty darn normal (and frantic, a lot of frantic) if you ask me. It’s difficult finding balance and time for both my academic and creative life but I do try to do it. I love that I am a part of two worlds. Science & Biology and creativity. I’ve realized that I cannot stay in a vacuum of creativity constantly. I need another outlet, an intellectual one. I’m blessed to be capable to do and understand both. Many people assume this, but I don’t integrate them into my work, I suppose I haven’t found a way to. I like them separate. My work is vibrant and colorful and what I do is more serious, nitty gritty. I like the polar opposite balance.


ADA: What are you creating at the moment and what prompted it?

NT: Currently i’m working on custom notepad designs and illustrations for clients. No new work has sparked lately but when it does happen, I snap it up quick and post on Instagram. I like to work out of spontaneity. I’m constantly inspired by my everyday life.

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ADA: There seems to be a lot of student activism in S.A riding off the RhodesMustFall movement, how has that affected young artists like you?

NT: It’s all quite inspiring! I haven’t ventured into political art, however, but I find the activism to be very exciting. We have so much power within us waiting to be manifested.





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