The joyous illustrated world of Phathu Nembilwi

Nembilwi describes her style as bright, colourful and centred on female empowerment.
Nembilwi describes her style as bright, colourful and centred on female empowerment.

She did the South African Google Doodle for this year’s Women’s World Cup in France and has worked with the likes of Puma and Mr P. But that’s not the only reason we love Phathu Nembilwi’s vibrant, wonderfully observed illustrations.

Freelance illustrator and graphic designer Phathu Nembilwi’s illustrations exude joy and optimism, showing women just enjoying themselves.

Against the backdrop of what’s broken news in South Africa this week, that in itself is a revolutionary act.

Born in Venda in Limpopo, Nembilwi says she was interested in design from an early age, but didn’t always have the opportunities to exercise that.

Phathu Nembilwi’s Google Doodle of Banyana Banyana

“We didn’t have any schools that catered to people interested in art,” she tells #Trending over the phone.

After matric she moved to Johannesburg to study graphic design at the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria.

Phathu Design - shopper bag which is good for the

“I loved the drawing part more than I loved the visual communication part. Once I entered the workforce I started to explore illustrations and pictures and creating artwork in that way,” she says.

Nembilwi describes her style as bright, colourful and centred on female empowerment: “[I like] exploring our beauty, our strengths, our weaknesses and what makes us women.”

She says that her illustrations are inspired by things she and her friends do, that she then adds fictional characters to. From tucking into big slices of pizza and cocktails with your girlfriends to lounging around outside – these are images we can all relate to.


In a country where women live in fear of violence, Nembilwi’s designs are a portrayal of the lightness that we can exude – despite our circumstances.

“I do want to show women’s love and joy in my drawings,” she says.


Nembilwi has plenty planned for the future, including exhibitions for other platforms. She also wants to do her own art exhibition where she collaborates with young artists. She says one day she would love to own her own design studio.

“I want to own my own studio and a gallery for people who want to show what they can do, but don’t have a platform for that.”

Nembilwi says she can’t believe how far her talent has taken her.

One of the illustrations done for Girl Gang Craft

“I never thought I’d make a living from my illustrations one day. For me I was just drawing pretty pictures.”

Those as in love with her drawings as we are can order T-shirts, shopper bags, notebooks, stationery and prints by emailing

. Go to for more

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