UJ Alumni Impumelelo Magazine Edition 8

– Creating Afrofuturism through graphic design and poetry NontokozoTshabalala

WHAT WOULD THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE IF WE HAD TO IMAGINE IT FOR OURSELVES AS BLACK PEOPLE? As an Afrofuturistic graphic artist and poet experimenting in different forms of art and design to tell stories of people from the African diaspora but also other people of colour, Nontokozo Tshabalala is living her dream. I absolutely love colour and try to experiment with it as much as I can. As a multidisciplinary artist I’d say my style in general is disruptive, non-conforming and depending on what I do, colourful and playful, she says from Gothenburg, Sweden, where she is based. A graduate from Gothenburg University where she completed a master’s degree in design with a Swedish Institute Scholarship for South Africans, which she was awarded in 2018, she now works on her art and part time as an art producer in a cultural centre in Angered, Gothenburg. To Nontokozo, an award-winning artist who has displayed her work at multiple exhibitions, graphic design is an immensely powerful discipline. “Its roots are, of course, from the colonial capitalistic times often used as a tool to sell something/ someone or to communicate a message about something. This could be things like business, products, people, and even nationalistic propaganda. The formula then becomes to design something in order to sell

something; or a practice involving the skilful use of both visual and written language to communicate a message. However, after learning the discipline and its education do not make space for the African voice to express its lived experience, she wondered how any of the stories told would be important enough to be given time and space to be understood by the education system. After all, the system is made up of teachers with their own and often different lived experiences. “Fortunately, I had a lecturer, Robyn Cook, who made me understand that my voice is my power even in graphic design. She remains one of those special teachers that don’t recite information to their students but enable them to find their own path in becoming great, and great designers. I will forever be grateful to her.” The graphic design discipline should be a platform to learn, explore and create from our history and lived experience of being African or any other culture that isn’t the accepted norm, she says. Through her work she asks the questions she has about herself as a black woman experiencing the world. These questions mainly explore identity and the black experience. Since she is also into the concept of Afrofuturism she asks what the future looks like if we had to imagine it as black people. “Steve Biko’s ideas about black consciousness is my favourite reference for imagining the future.

Nontozoko Tshabalala receives the Gold for Young Creative of 2021 at the Loeries in Cape Town earlier this year


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