Cape Town - There are some pretty powerful political messages lurking beneath the brushstrokes of 21-year-old illustrator and graphic designer Nomonde Mtetwa AKA $hlohmonde’s digital artworks.
Her oeuvre is surprisingly vast, featuring portraits of personalities such as Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema, pop stars such as Jaden Smith and creatives such as Tzvi Karp.
“Look, if Julius Malema wasn’t such a conservative Limpopo man I think that my picture is what he would’ve looked like today,” the artist tells me from her home in “Hoehannesburg”, as she calls it. The picture is a hand-drawn portrait of Juju with a fairly typical Juju expression but, this time, he’s been adorned with face tattoos, a studded biker jacket and a flaming red mohawk.
“I started drawing him for a school assignment,” she says, currently enrolled as a full-time communications student, doing graphic design at The Design School Southern Africa. “We had to do subcultures and I decided that I had to do punk. As I researched it, I found out that punks were really rebellious, and weren’t afraid to stand up to authority. I see Juju as someone who isn’t afraid to stand up and speak his mind. I see him as rebellious.”
The rest of her subjects, all rendered in variations of her painterly style, are sourced from various Instagram profiles found online. “Okay, this is weird, but I like stalking people on Instagram. I actually want to portray who I see them to be on Instagram, even if that’s not who they really are. Sometimes there are pictures that show a hidden part of who they are, a part that not everyone sees.
“I think that this year is going to be the year for people to not just be faces, but for those faces to speak for themselves.”
Follow $hlohmonde on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @shlohmonde.