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A model with albinism, Nontobeko would love to walk the Victoria’s Secret ramp one day and aspires to be a criminologist. She talks to us about her challenges, perceptions of beauty and what’s next.

Tell us a little about your background.

I was born in Richards Bay, I grew up in Ladysmith and I was raised by my mother’s sister. I completed my degree in Political Science and Criminology in 2018, and I’m currently doing a diploma in Fashion and Textile. I love art.

How did you start your modelling career?

I was spotted by a photographer who assisted me in finding an agency.

Do you think the world of beauty and modelling is changing in that people are beginning to challenge narrow perceptions of beauty?

It’s gradually becoming more inclusive in the sense that it is now slowly allowing people of different shapes and shades to be a part of it and so more people relate to it.

How has your perception of beauty adapted over the years?

Meeting different types of people has taught me that there’s a lot more to beauty than how people look physically. Physical appearance is a part of beauty, but not entirely it.

Overall, what has your experience of being a model with albinism been like?

I would say it has been both positive and negative at the same time because people tend to underestimate your abilities because of your condition and that sucks. But sometimes I get jobs for being an albino which is good and bad, depending on how you look at it. I think I’ve shown a different side of people living with albinism – we are beautiful and capable of doing anything.

How has modelling helped you as a person?

It’s helped me to realise that my skin is gold and I should treat it as such.

What’s next for your career?

My ultimate goal in the modelling world is to be part of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I love helping people, especially those who can’t afford proper assistance in the crime field, so I’m planning on furthering my studies in criminology and in 10 years’ time I’ll be a practising criminologist.

What are your healthy habits?

I work out three times a week and I’m a vegetarian.

Any advice you’d like to give to other young people with albinism who might be struggling with traditional beauty ideals?

I think it’s time we stopped trying to be beautiful or accepted by society. We need to focus on being happy because I believe that there’s nothing more beautiful than being happy within yourself.

How would you describe your personal style?

Casual and relaxed.

Your top beauty tip?

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.



Cape Town’s fashion crowd descended upon the Cruise Terminal of Cape Town’s Waterfront to view the Autumn/Winter presentation of SA Menswear Week. The raw industrial location provided a clean slate for the eclectic collections showcased. Winter 2019 is set to be a kaleidoscope of colour and texture.

Tokyo James

The Tokyo James man is urban, street and slick. Modern silhouettes and expert tailoring are given an edge with bright pops of colour and graphic prints. His must-have accessories? The bag, the waist belt and the cape. Go for lime green in true Tokyo James style.

Nicholas Coutts

Classic winter fabrics, prints and textures are brought to life with primary colours. Confidence and effortless style come in yellows, greens and reds. The designer’s cable-knit sweaters and oversized scarves are sure to be some of the season’s most covetable items.

Nao Serati

Nao’s collection blurs the line between traditional masculine and feminine silhouettes. This vibrant offering is what getting dressed up is all about… saying yes to PVC, yes to fancy headgear and yes to sequins – and above all, yes to having fun.

ALC Menswear

Winter is all about layering and ALC served the heat. Capes, coats and jackets were thrown over shirts of varying lengths. We particularly liked the longer hemlines. And the tie-dye prints and bucket hats scream ’90s nostalgia.




How do you feel when you’re being photographed naked? 

Pumla: There is a range of emotions I tend to feel when being photographed naked. It can range from being free to feeling vulnerable. As an artist, I am always pushing to make myself feel confident in all shapes and forms. For me, it is all in the intentions of the connection between the eyes of the soul and the soul of the person behind the camera.

Kingsley: Being photographed naked in my opinion is a form of art. It tells a story and expresses an emotion or feeling, whether it’s hurt or happiness. This, in turn, gives me a very good understanding of my body, so yeah, I feel empowered.

However you identify sexually, what are your thoughts on the changing and increasingly complex views towards human sexuality?

Pumla: My sexuality identity is my spiritual identity. In the sense that my preference doesn’t come in any shape or form. As a human being, I believe I deserve to desire and love whatever and whomever I want to regardless of gender, sex, race or even morality. I believe human sexuality is moving into a new form; a beautiful form where we are able to just adapt without feeling afraid.

Are the old views making way for new? Do you see younger people in Africa being more accepting towards all sexual orientations?

Pumla: I come from a strong Afro-Caribbean culture (Jamaican/Cuban) where it was taboo to be free in mind and spirit about sexuality. It was not something you were able to express. Since becoming my own person and living in South Africa and experiencing different types of people and cultures, my sexuality is not something that hinders me from making friends, hugging and telling my brothers or sisters that I love them. I feel we are in a generation where people are more loving and accepting of each other in general.

Kingsley: Yes, there are old views making way for new. The world is fast changing, as are our minds and thoughts towards life and I do see younger generations accepting sexual orientation and gender identities more than our forefathers. People are more verbal about different sexual orientation now than before.

What are your thoughts about the end result of the shoot?

Pumla: I was able to share a moment of brotherhood with my long-time friend and brother Kingsley, who is dear to my heart. This is someone who pushes me in the industry and something who has struggled as much as me to make a difference regarding the perception of black male models. I was able to connect to myself and my body and appreciate all that was given to me throughout the years. Each image is perfection and speaks volumes.

Kingsley: At first it was overwhelming because it’s the first time I’ve ever done this type of shoot. But in the process, I felt good about it because I was using the different angles of my body to describe the hurt/happiness of another person. It’s always important to put positivity into everything that you do… you might have just healed someone through these images. So, I felt good and excited when I saw the images.




Currently living in the US, Nigerian artist Wole Lagunju focuses on challenging and critiquing notions of imperialistic cultural idioms. He talks to AFRICA IS NOW about his exhibition Yoruba Remixed, the role of African history in his art and his exploration of the symbolism of Gelede masks.

Who is Wole Lagunju?

I grew up in Osogbo, a town in Western Nigeria famous for its art movement. Osogbo is also known for the annual Osun-Osogbo festival, an event which is a celebration of the river goddess, Osun. I graduated in 1986 from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) with a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a specialisation in graphic design. Over the years, my art practice has examined the cultural idioms and visual design of the indigenous artistic practices of traditional Yoruba women in Nigeria. In my paintings and installations, I have explored the design and motifs found in adiré textiles, traditionally dyed indigo fabric. Recently my art has also examined Gelede masks with a view to bringing fresh insights into Yoruba mask making.

Gelede is a male-oriented dance which celebrates women and their sacred powers of procreation and sexuality.’

How did you start painting?

My painting experience started as a youngster growing up in Osogbo, in the early ’70s. I grew up in the midst of artistic activities and participated in the Osogbo art movement under the tutelage and mentorship of some of the principal artists like Jacob Afolabi. Professional painting started for me while at the University of Ife, but I did not pursue it as a major. It was one of the electives I chose towards a degree in graphic design. After my graduation from the University of Ife, I worked at The Daily Times in the early ’90s as an illustrator. Thereafter, I had a brief stint in advertising and after some travelling in Europe, in the late ’90s I decided to practice as a full-time studio artist with an initial bias for painting and drawing.

What role does African history play in your paintings?

My relocation to the Western world has reintroduced me to societies with an historical background of colonisation and imperialism. My living experiences in them have exposed me to the present and historical roles these societies have played in the shaping of the African continent. For example, in the US there’s a historical and cultural background of slavery and racism. It has led me along a path towards re-evaluating the purpose of my art and the issues that I choose to address. The social experiences I have encountered have made me rethink the purpose of art in itself and the role of the contemporary African artist.

In my recent artworks, I address the issues inherent in African history by critiquing imperialistic cultural idioms and interrogating the colonisation of Africa and the subjugation of its traditional culture.

What place does African culture and tradition have among today’s African youth?

Globalisation has opened a vista of world culture to the African youth with access via the internet to a plethora of information, introducing them to a wide array of cultural choices. Traditional African and indigenous culture is now thought of as unfashionable or inferior.

The Yoruba Remixed paintings utilise a lot of traditional masks. Can you elaborate on their symbolism?

My paintings in this exhibition reference Gelede masks. Gelede masks are worn by Yoruba menfolk to celebrate women and their relevance to Yoruba society. Gelede is a male-oriented dance which celebrates women and their sacred powers of procreation and sexuality. The masks and dances satirise, entertain and educate onlookers and the society at large. As much as Gelede celebrates the powers of motherhood in Yoruba women they are also a salutation to their personal physical attributes and endowment. This is found in the meaning of the word Gelede itself. ‘Ge’ means to ‘pet or tenderly deal with’, ‘ele’ refers to a woman’s private parts and ‘de’ means ‘to soften them with gentleness’.

Gelede masks have elaborate wooden superstructures with carved human and animal imagery. These are spiritual and physical representations alluding to the awesome powers of ‘our mothers’ or women. They also represent the Yoruba notion of the physical head or ori of an individual. Ori being the seat of the life force in the physical and supernatural realms.

Check out the Yoruba Remixed artworks here.



British-Nigerian designer Tokyo James’ new label Morse explores the intersection between fashion and art.

From Nigerian Afro-fusion singer/songwriter Burna Boy donning a patent black trench coat and red leather pants from the Tokyo James AW19 collection at a concert in Lagos, Nigeria, to the CEO of Chime Group, Udochi Igbokwe, wearing Tokyo James in Forbes magazine, the designer has gained massive traction since the first show of his eponymous label at South African Menswear Week (SAMW) in 2015.

Now Tokyo, whose creative career began as a fashion stylist for a variety of international brands, is launching a new label called Morse. The Morse campaign launch (featured here) was produced by AFRICA IS NOW’s editor Chrisna de Bruyn and the video was directed by Maxime Thaysen.

In terms of the fashion label’s ideology, Tokyo says: ‘With Morse, we’re interested in how fashion plays and intersects with art from various cultures. It also looks at the visual representation of how fashion and various cultures’ art forms meet and how to interpret that into the real modern world. It’s a system of language that communicates visually to the everyday person how societies express themselves and see themselves through art. After all, fashion in and of itself is an art form.’

While traditional techniques, clean lines and wearability are always at the core of his first label, Tokyo James, this year’s menswear show at SAMW will feature ‘a lot of colour and new fabrics’. ‘I’ve used a mixture of fabrics that I’ve never played around with before,’ says Tokyo. ‘There’s a lot of tie-dye, leather and plastics. I hope people like it, it’ll be exciting to see.’

The Tokyo James AW19 SAMW show is at 8pm on 9 February 2019 at the V&A Waterfront. For the full schedule, click here.





Afropunk Retrospective

Here are AFRICA IS NOW staffers’ stand-out moments from the biggest celebration of African and black culture of the year that was 2018 – all captured through the lenses of Anthony Bila and David Kambwiri.

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africa is now magazine

Jean Luc Niyonzima

‘I went to Afropunk expecting to have a good time and meet some interesting people, but as a first-time attendee nothing could have prepared me for the abundance of colour, culture and charisma that is the lifeblood of the Afropunk ethos.’ ‘Afropunk Joburg was a celebration of the African and black individual in all their glory.

Everyone present understood that it was through the acknowledgement, respect and admiration of the unequivocal uniqueness of each attendee that we all could celebrate as a whole. This message was echoed through the banners boldly displayed across the event venue that stated: ‘NO SEXISM; NO RACISM; NO ABLEISM; NO AGEISM; NO HOMOPHOBIA; NO FATPHOBIA; NO TRANSPHOBIA, NO HATEFULNESS’, and even more so in the attitudes of everyone there.’

John Claude

‘The second Afropunk festival held at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg was a big success. The rainy and stormy weather did not put a damper on my spirit. The people came out. They came in numbers and in their most creative and eye-catching attire. It was two days of celebration among people of colour. Two days of celebrating the African spirit alongside my brothers and sisters.’

‘The music was like fire in the cold and the artists kept it burning throughout. Even through the rain, Thandiswa Mazwai, Muzi and Kaytranada, among others, kept the fire burning and the crowd couldn’t have been better.’

Jean Luc

‘The highlights for me included Flying Lotus and his out-of-this-world, visually unparalleled 3D performance; YoungstaCPT’s powerful commentary on the land reclamation issue currently being debated in South Africa; DJ Maphorisa’s masterful blend of Nigerian Afrobeats and South African house, Gqom; being blessed by the presence of legendary South African kwaito group Trompies; and lastly, there was no better way to end the year and usher in the new than Haitian-Canadian DJ and record producer Kaytranada’s electrifying set.’


‘A highlight was meeting the hip-hop artist Bas at the Everyday People event the night before Afropunk at Shine studios. It was great because I had missed most of his performance in Cape Town two weeks prior. Another one was Moonchild’s Sanelly’s energetic performance which included her getting off the stage and performing in the crowd. Definitely one for the books.

‘I would be doing everyone a disservice if I did not mention the Spinthrift Market which showcased items inspired by African art and textiles. My favourite brand was DOPE Store. DOPE, which is an acronym for “Designer Original Products Enterprise” is a lifestyle store concentrating on world design, music, fashion and art. It specialises in selling unique collections by various designers.’

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Jean Luc

‘Leaving the event, the only thought running through my mind was that Africa needs more celebrations of who we are like this… the world needs more celebrations like these.’




We sat down with DJ InviZAble’s Earth Liaisons, Nick Matthews and Jonathan Inggs, to talk about identity, positivism, cultural appropriation, the sound of XiFi and the newly released album.

So how does this ‘Earth liaison’ gig work?

JON: We speak on behalf of InviZAble and he speaks through us…

Who is DJ inviZAble?

NICK: A mythical being who’s travelled from distant planets in the Sonarverse. He’s a refugee of Xi, who has created a new sound – XiFi.

What is the inviZAble Project?

JON: It was initially about the music and over the years, it’s morphed into a bigger creative project. So, it’s not just about the music – we have the music, the exhibition and there’s a graphic novel coming. We also built The Skorofietsie which we incorporated into the exhibition, but it’s a standalone street performance in its own right. It’s basically a sound system on a bicycle, so it looks cool.


‘We’re taking tropes of South African music and then remodelling them with a contemporary electronic style, so it’s got a unique sound to it.’

What does the project mean to DJ InviZAble?

NICK: One of the most important things that it means to me as an artist is that I get to discuss the question around identity. A masked character doesn’t exude a descriptive identity, racially, and in terms of gender and philosophical orientation, so that leaves the room wide open for interpretation, which is really important, particularly when trying to reimagine a futuristic perspective of what South African identity is.
At the moment, I see from a creative level that South Africa is dealing with an identity crisis and that’s because of its fractured past and I guess because of its diversity.

It leaves the door open for interpretation, which is really important. In a situation where a culture is trying to define itself, which is where South Africa is right now, it’s important to have that freedom of expression and to allow these new ideas to emerge. I guess that’s where I get the motivation from.

One of the biggest challenges we face in SA is still racial segregation. It also has an economic aspect to it which is one of the hardest things to overcome in order to create a more inclusive society. I guess that’s why, for example, the gig we did recently was free. I don’t want there to be any kind of price barrier for someone to experience this. I’d rather they walk away with something that they can remember, instead of trying to create an exclusive niche out of it.

JON: Just to add to DJ InviZAble’s interpretation of identity… something we all feel very strongly about is that South Africa in the last two to three years has taken massive strides. You see the rise of qgom and that kwaito and trap kind of identity. But it’s still inherently European or American in origin. It has been a case of people emulating.

Among us Africans there’s a feeling that if we create our own identity and do something ourselves, we are inherently inferior to these Western standards and styles. But South Africa is moving towards creating its own identity. You can also see that Europeans are co-opting African culture in the form of afro-house. DJs from Berlin and London are playing afro-house – and they’ve never even been to Africa! We come from Cape Town where the segregation is still very real… Joburg is a completely different story. Cape Town – which is very white, very old money and very conservative, and where the best spaces in the city are reserved for wealthy people – has now transitioned from a racial thing to an economic form of classism.

We’ve got a government at the moment that doesn’t give a damn about poor people. By engaging in this style of music and bringing the sounds of the township into the music, we are trying to make sure that we bridge that gap in some way.

The frontwoman of InviZAble, Yolanda Fyrus, comes from Khayelitsha. She’s like one of the mayors of Khayelitsha (laughs) and she’s a sangoma. When we were recording the album, we would chat about her dreams the night before and then the music came out reflecting that. So hopefully, we’ve got the backing of the ancestors.

This project and the understanding of this project and the inclusion of different elements of African culture, from beyond South Africa, has been very important. Just after the XiFi album comes out, we’ve got some of SA’s top producers remixing the album. We’re going to launch a remix album in the next two months which will include the likes of RMBO from BLK JKS, Thandi Draai, Kusasa, Jackie Queens, Kevin Ribbans, Matthew Loots and Cornelius, who’s been killing it in Berlin with the Red Bull guys. Then we’ve got some guys overseas who are going to be jumping on the project. We’re hoping to launch this album in Johannesburg. We had quite a successful exhibition at the Everard Read Gallery in Cape Town, and they’re open to us exhibiting at their Joburg gallery now.

‘XiFi is a hero’s journey. It’s about being able to overcome adversity through very normal African ingenuity.’

Can you explain what XiFi music is?

NICK: It’s based on this concept of reimagination. The impetus behind XiFi as a genre of music was to try and incorporate, let’s call it traditional music, and I mean that in the sense of folkloric narratives and stories that were put into the music. For example, iThongo Lam, which is a culturally significant traditional Xhosa song that speaks about the ancestors.

We don’t think of this as cultural appropriation and I’d really like to try and define that. We are not taking something and slapping it on something else. What we’ve done is we’ve taken that song and we’ve reworked it into a contemporary style.

We’re taking tropes of South African music and then remodelling them with a contemporary electronic style, so it’s got a unique sound to it. It’s got futurism, it’s got synthesisers and it’s dancey and uplifting, and it’s meant to move you, make you shake your booty. But at the same time, it has its roots. It’s got this story and context behind it which, for us, is very important.

JON: And it’s got respect for older traditions…

NICK: Yes, it acknowledges its roots and gives them their place. It’s not trying to do Die Antwoord; walking over a culture and pissing people off, which is their shock value. We’re not in that game, we’re in the game of positivism.

JON: XiFi is about inspiring the youth, people of colour especially. It’s about, creating your own style, being proud of your roots and where you come from. This is very much the drive for us.


‘When I say this music is for the people, it’s not a rash statement. Most of the music that I perform is not for money, I’m playing for free.’

Tell us more about the album.

NICK: The whole XiFi album is based on a science-fiction story.​

JON: Classic good versus evil…

NICK: Yes, classic good versus evil. Nothing out of the normal here (laughs). It’s pretty much in line with any alien movie you’ve ever watched. Star Wars was referenced to the ground. XiFi is a hero’s journey. It’s about being able to overcome adversity through very normal African ingenuity. For example, upcycling, repurposing, making something from nothing. Taking these things that the Western world…

JON: Ja, the throwaway society…

NICK: Yes, these things that they take for granted. Africans take those things and reimagine them. We’ll take that TV PC board and turn it into an amplifier. And we’ll be able to take that and spread our message across the continent and all over the globe. This is the kind of ethos that’s behind the album. The album is that whole story from beginning to end, so it starts with The Dream and it ends with The Celebration.

JON: We do have a meta-stab at colonialism. The main antagonist is an evil guy who’s come to conquer a rural planet and steal its resources. Obviously, you don’t have to have a massive imagination to know what we’re referring to there… the white man coming to Africa with his rifles and bibles. We portray that story in a futuristic narrative, bringing home the message that as Africans, it’s OK to stand up for yourself, it’s OK to have your own identity and it’s OK to buck the status quo in terms of imposed culture.

NICK: Moving forward from that, we now sit in a situation where we can’t avoid colonialism. It’s part of our culture. Look at all the African dictators over the past 60 years… what do they all look like? Idi Amin, who was a royalist at the end of the day. It’s not going to go away, and you can see that in terms of the aesthetic and style of InviZAble. Although it’s distinctly African, it draws from many different cultural references, not just European but also Malaysian in terms of the dress and the style and the cut. The latest outfit I wore was made by Malikah Hajee, who comes from a lineage of tailors that came to this country as slaves. We don’t have to dwell on the past, but we have to accept it.

What it comes down to is creolisation (the mixing together of different people and cultures to become one). That’s what we are going though right now. It’s a never-ending process. Even now we see that the internet has made little people all over the world think that they are massive rap stars because they have access to the internet. Likewise, we are going to have a situation on a global scale, where people will be able to identify with cultures they’ve never experienced before. Like, for example, Berlin house music.


What’s the significance of the colour spectrum on the cover artwork for the XiFi album?

NICK: It’s another semiotic. We went from plain primary and secondary colours to totally neon. That particular colour spectrum not only has a deeper meaning in terms of how we see the world in terms of colour, but it also has significance in a very futuristic way. When you think of neon you think of electricity, you think of Asia. It’s another one of those ways that I’ve been able to express creativity in a visual way.

JON: Stylistically, it’s been kept traditional, but it’s like the colour of the future is neon. All of these things are like adaptations of past and present and looking towards the future and what that future could be.

NICK: That’s the main focus – don’t forget where we’ve come from, don’t forget where we are, but let’s have a look where we’re going. Look behind but look ahead at the same time (laughs).

JON: I feel a Kung Fu Panda quote coming on (laughs).

NICK: We come from a post-socialist perspective. One thing that we’ve done while collaborating on this album is ensured that all the intellectual property invested belongs to the artists.

JON: We’re quite socialist in our approach, even in terms of the exhibition. Every single one of those images had been given to us by the photographers. So, we were happy to share 50:50 with them on all the sales, even though we paid for the production. It was our way of saying thank you because over the years, we’ve had photographers giving us photos because they thought our gigs were amazing. We’ve built up this incredible library of images and it’s added to the visual aesthetic of DJ InviZAble. Likewise, it’s even splits for everyone with regards to the song royalties.

NICK: Our objective is to try and uplift the people we work with – that’s our mission. At the end of the day, we’re broke musicians (laughs), but we have a sense of pride artistically. We’re doing it the right way. There’s always positive intention, despite the challenges. Even yesterday I was spitting at the windscreen because I couldn’t get something right. I had to sit back and remember that this is why I do this. For Mandela Day, we decided we were going to play music to orphans who’d probably never heard a live show. The feeling that we walk away with afterwards was just incredible.

Where are you performing next?

NICK: We’re performing on 28 October at Open Street in Observatory in Cape Town. They close off Main Road between Woodstock and Salt River. There’s a very poor community on the one side and a wealthier community on the other side. So, the idea behind this is to find a way to create a cultural intermingling; one that isn’t a capitalistic undertaking. You just come and hang out on the street and as long as you’re not riding a vehicle that’s self-powered, you can bring it along. So, I bring my Skorofietsie, I play my sound. You see these little kids staring at you as though you’ve come from another planet, man (laughs)

You’ve said that your music is for the people. Can you explain?

NICK: When I say this music is for the people, it’s not a rash statement. Most of the music that I perform is not for money, I’m playing for free. I haven’t earned any money from any of the gigs I’ve played for the last five years. As an artist, you have a massive responsibility on your shoulders which very few artists recognise. And that is the following: you are the representation of the prevailing culture of the time. You are the mirror and you have to put something out there that is going to represent that authentically. That’s what I’m doing.

Get the album here



AKJP came into being via a collaboration between Adriaan Kuiters’ designer, Keith Henning, and artist Jody Paulsen. The Cape Town brand, whose signature is its artful contemporary twist on classic and utilitarian menswear, is now known as AKJP. It has a concept store in Cape Town, housing 20 of South Africa’s local designers, called Shop.Collective.

The brand uses layering, boxy silhouettes and asymmetrical detailing as distinguishing styling features. Core to the brand is a focus on quality, with the intention of making people feel confident in the clothing, regardless of age.

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AKJP SS19 Permanent Collection

​A functional, ready-to-wear collection designed with strong, adjustable silhouettes and minimal details, the AKJP SS19 Permanent Collection is accompanied by a seasonal Jody Paulsen print. Originally made in 2016 for the winter collection, the print was inspired by the lush tropical landscape of Durban and the trees and the grain markings found on the interior and exterior surface of wood. ‘I sketched out various 2D grain-like shapes, cut the shapes out by hand and then collaged my shapes together to make the pattern,’ says Jody. ‘The collage was then digitised and rendered into a repeat pattern. We have revisited this print by shifting its colour palette this season.’

The SS19 Permanent collection is their most interactive one yet as customers are encouraged to build their own looks and wardrobe by pairing and matching the reversible styles and colours. Made entirely from Egyptian cotton, the collection is available in the SS19 colour palette.

‘The optimistic palette consists of primary colours contrasted with black, white and mint,’ says Jodi. ‘These pieces are intended to be mixed and matched by the customer, similarly to the way Africa is Now has styled them here. This season we worked on dying our fabrics in colours that were bright but not garish. We hoped to provide our customer with something that felt light, relaxed and easy to wear.’

Available at Shop.Collective and at AKJP online store.




Costume Hire is Africa’s largest supplier of clothing to the film, commercials and photographic industries. Based in Cape Town, they offer a broad range of clothing options to stylists, whether period piece or contemporary. The company started in 2004 when a group of stylists and designers collaborated to combine their stock into a single rental facility. From these humble beginnings in a church hall, the company has expanded significantly and now holds over 120 000 individual items, including the stock of 45 designers in their Salt River warehouse. Co-founder Wolfgang Ender has costume designed over 50 films for the international market. He now offers his expertise in-house at Costume Hire.



We spoke to the South African queer illustrator extraordinaire about his multi-cultural upbringing, influences and one-of-a-kind illustrations that address hard-hitting subject matter, spanning the spectrums of race, sexuality and gender identity, with mystical themes and colourful vibrancy.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I am currently 22. I was born to a Zulu mother and Cameroonian father who nurtured my artist’s dreams from a very young age. As a result, I have always been clear about who I am and what I’d like to be, with regards to my skillset, career choice, sexuality and transgender identity. Around grade 10 marked the first time I started doing graphic design for clients, ranging from government to other high schoolers. Starting graphic design and making money from it at such a young age made me enjoy the idea of freelancing, but my African parents were not about to let me do that (laughs). In 2014, I started first year at the Open Window Institute studying visual design and in 2015, I found my true calling when I had to select my preferred majors and electives. I fell in love with Illustration that year and it opened up my eyes to my design potential. In 2016, I left Open Window due to lack of funds. That was also the day I decided to embrace the freelance life I had initially wanted. Attending design school did make some things easier to grasp and I would definitely advise going to a school dedicated to your preferred craft, purely to learn and apply the fundamentals of the field. The choice to freelance is the reason ‘Khanya, The Designer’ , as you know him today, even exists.

‘The choice to freelance is the reason “Khanya, The Designer” as you know him today even exists.’

What did you learn when you were studying graphic design?

I learnt about how art can be applied and the potential that exists in illustrations. I designed everything, mostly using Adobe Illustrator, from stamps, storybooks, plush toys, murals, apparel design to how to draw faster and how to use a wider range of mediums. Although, once I started freelancing, I really started to embrace, explore and draw using Adobe Photoshop as a medium which isn’t something I would say I learnt during my schooling. But it shaped my visual art style to what it is today, no doubt about that.

Growing up, did you have any African creative role models, and if so who?

My aunt, my mother’s youngest sister, was the very first queer woman of colour whom I witnessed explore the arts and do amazingly at it. She would bring back huge paintings with dark narratives and nudity. I’d stare at her artworks as they lay on the dining room table and get lost in the colours and detailing. She also really encouraged me as an artist around that time and would use some of my ‘babydrawing’ techniques in her pieces. My mother was another creative role model. She studied fine art when she was young and was incredible at it, but unfortunately, her parents didn’t encourage her at all. I remember seeing her highly detailed, full-page drawings of my baby hands, feet and eyes. Honestly, my mother is far more talented than me.

How did your unique illustrating style come about?

With regards to the visual execution – the colours I use, shading techniques, effects and overall look of my work – it was intensely influenced by my long-term, serious relationship with pop style and 90s cartoon, as well as using Adobe Photoshop and exploring the effects, brushes, etc. I pretty much never draw on paper, which isn’t great, but damn impressive, if you ask me.

What influences the subject matter that your artwork depicts?

The narratives and stories behind my illustrations have been influenced by my experiences on Earth as Khanya. The experiences within my existence as a young, black, queer transman and my relationship with the lack of representation, and complete erasure, of those like myself in the art scene; my experiences with my blackness and masculinity, my two years of homelessness and my relationship with the Earth, to name a few.

Take us through the process of creating one of your pieces, from inspiration and idea to the Instagram post.

I usually either create a quote or phrase for myself or read through text messages, blogs or articles on specific topics to get the inspiration flowing. Thereafter, it’s a matter of looking at lots, I mean lots and lots, of pictures and videos, ranging from tattoo designs, avant-garde photography, portrait photography, memes; ranging from explicit content to make-up tutorials. Once I have an idea of at least three somewhat correlating artworks (because you can only post three artworks per row on Instagram), it’s a matter of setting up the document on Photoshop. I usually go for an A2 size page, 300dpi and I make the page an off-white colour. From that point, it’s doing the linework, or ‘the skeleton’ of the artwork as I call it. After linework, it’s the base colours for each element, and after the base colours, I add shading and highlights where necessary. After shading and highlights are incorporated, then it’s the final effects, like lens flares, patterns on clothing, piercings, text, tribal paints or any other markings. The final touch is my artist’s tag. It all takes me anything from two-and-a-half to four hours per artwork.

Does social media affect the type of work you create?

It used to. I would make more aesthetically pleasing artworks that always surrounded the trending topics on social media. But that all changed when I started focusing on a specific portion of the population – LGBTQIA+ of colour. From that point on, social media has not had an effect on my artwork or stopped me from being more ‘obscene’ or vulgar. If anything, the only way social media has affected my work is with regards to its reach and the speed with which I work.

Your Instagram says ‘Vulgar, Feminist, Surreal, Unapologetic art’ – could you elaborate on how these words define you as an illustrator?

Vulgarity and nudity have always been the ideal aesthetic to me. Feminist is how I was raised and how I remain living. Surreal is defined as being ‘bizarre’ and I am neither ordinary as an illustrator nor as a person. I have a firm love for being surreal. I’m a very unapologetic, especially when it comes to empowering myself or my group of people. I have no concern as to how people feel about the nudity and the queer content of my artworks. I am very unapologetic about my attempts to represent those who don’t exist in mainstream or ‘underground’ art in a beautiful and empowering way. Living unapologetically does not mean ‘living without shame’, we need shame as it keeps us in line and aware of what is okay and what isn’t. Living unapologetically means ‘living without fear’ and that is the one thing I want to push onto those I represent through Illustration. Sexuality and gender identity are strong themes in several of your artworks.

As a South African queer illustrator, what message do you hope your audience to receive pertaining to these topics?

I’d like my audience to understand that they are deserving. Deserving of being depicted in their natural and beautiful glory. That there is more to them than what the mainstream media will ever say. I’d like to understand their aesthetic and how powerful their narrative is, even on paper. I’d like them to see my efforts in trying to make us and our images familiar, but never basic. I’d like them to see that in order to get things done right, we sometimes have to do it ourselves rather than waiting for the world to grow up and see our magic; that we are here to dominate all spaces from which we have been erased and kept out of for far too long. Our voices are louder than you think.

‘Facing your inner demons and taking control of your happiness and existence as a black queer is not the easiest thing to do and a lot of us are still in the process of doing that. But once you do, despite what people say, you will feel yourself grow a few inches, I swear to the Universe. It’s so liberating.’

What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome to get to a point where you express yourself and your art so freely?

Finding my worth as an artist, as a young artist and as a black LGBTQ artist was the biggest obstacle. I found myself treating myself like the world treated me. I never thought I could be as good as I am now, never thought I’d be celebrated or accepted – it didn’t feel possible. I lived in an odd state of consistent fear, but eventually, I realised that it’s no way to progress. You will never step outside of your comfort zone if you keep telling yourself it’s going be effortless. Admitting to my parents that I was transgender and having them accept me was the biggest breath of fresh air this year (2018). Facing your inner demons and taking control of your happiness and existence as a black queer is not the easiest thing to do and a lot of us are still in the process of doing that. But once you do, despite what people say, you will feel yourself grow a few inches, I swear to the Universe. It’s so liberating. I don’t see myself having any obstacles now unless I make them myself.

What message do you have for other African queer creatives who might fear being ridiculed for expressing themselves as intimately as you do?

The best advice I can give you is: if you are worried about what other people will think about you, then stop thinking about them for a moment and think about you. Your will and worth are stronger than their words. Remember, your comfort zone isn’t the same as your safe zone. Always remain safe because you are the most important figure in this process, but don’t allow yourself to get comfortable with a certain arrangement – ‘get out of your comfort zone’. We are never sure about how people will react to us, so if you are worried, then make sure you are safe if you’re going to take that step of letting people know. But have no fear, show no remorse about telling the art world who you are. You do not and will not (ever!) stand alone.

‘The same goes for the attitude towards woman creatives. Our experience, regardless of the route it takes in our art, whether it’s black queer orientated or black womxn orientated, etc, will always be the black experience. Why? Because we are black and experiencing experiences. It’s that simple.’

What is your opinion of the status quo of the African creative climate, and is there anything that you would like to see changed?

A change in how people police the content black artists can produce is something I would love to see transform. I have had people come up to me and ask me to do art that’s ‘less LGBTQIA+ and POC orientated’ because ‘I would also like to see myself in your art’. I have had a person say my art won’t get far because it’s ‘too obscene’ while looking at an illustration of two masculine bodies making out. I have had white people tell me they want to support me but I am too ‘against white people/heterosexual people’. I have had older male creatives tell me that my art doesn’t speak to the black experience and that I should start producing content that speaks to black people, ‘like taxi ranks, slum areas, men at work, women with their breasts out in traditional attire, you know? Black people things’. It’s wrong on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin. The policing of queer African and African creative’s content is literal discrimination (literal homophobia and racism). We need to stop being targeted to ‘water down’ or change our content so that it makes those who aim to erase us feel more comfortable and represented and helps them to remain on their pedestals. The same goes for the attitude towards womxn creatives. Our experience, regardless of the route it takes in our art, whether it’s black queer orientated or black womxn orientated, etc, will always be the black experience. Why? Because we are black and experiencing experiences. It’s that simple.

Tell us more about your work as a DJ and the types of music you like to play.

My existence as a DJ (DJ Qing) has been a short one and I really hope it develops into a path I can explore alongside my Illustrator existence. Being multi-dimensional is the ideal form I would like for myself as a creative. It’s mostly centred around hip-hop and rap (old and new). I love watching my queers dance and have fun dancing and a dancefloor full of POC queer bodies in motion is one from the Gods, so I aim to play music that allows that to happen.

What are you working on right now?

I have merch underway and I’m currently working on a mural at Neighbourgoods Market in collaboration with Sunday Edition ZA @sundayeditionza.

Where can people buy your work?

I have taken the firm decision to no longer sell prints and I work on a commission basis. All posted work is solely used to build my portfolio. If prints are sold, there will only be a limited supply and no prints will be redistributed. However, if anyone would like to get hold of me or access my content – follow me on Instagram @khanyathedesigner or email me at kkhanyathedesigner@gmail.com. Message me with any queries and we can make magic!

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