"I'm a strong black lead" - 3 local illustrators share what inclusion on Netflix shows means for them

Sinomonde Ngwane, Delmaine Donson, and Karabo Poppy photographed by Cedric Nzaka
Sinomonde Ngwane, Delmaine Donson, and Karabo Poppy photographed by Cedric Nzaka

This week has topped the charts in terms of good news about inclusion and diversity. One might opine that we're applauding fish for swimming because this is representation that should have been standard years ago, but even so, every stride towards progress deserves recognition. 

READ MORE: Are black people finally getting the recognition they deserve? 

So if like me, you regularly flex your streaming muscle, you’ll know that Netflix has been home to plenty of content that celebrates the LGBTQ community, women and black people. As a result, you might already be aware of their Strong Black Lead movement, which debuted during the 2018 BET Awards and is all about championing authentic black content in front of and behind the screen. 

Series such as Ava DuVernay's four-part limited series When They See Us, Spike Lee's She’s Gotta Have It and Good Girls all form part of this Strong Black Lead movement. 

In light of this, Netflix South Africa has partnered with three creatives from our shores - Karabo Poppy Moletsane, Delmaine Donson and Sinomonde Ngwane - to illustrate what such shows mean to them. 

Through their creations, the local artists further highlighted the importance of being a strong black lead - shedding light on the trials and tribulations of the strong, black South African woman, while highlighting the important work of the black creatives at the same time.

READ MORE: Netflix is hiring a team of women to work on an African teenage girl’s superhero animated series 

This is what these three trailblazing illustrators about Strong Black Lead and what it means to be a 'strong black lead':

Delmain Donson

Strong Black Lead, to me, means someone who can inspire change, someone who is strong enough to take the first step to create change and someone who is able to influence the minds of others while giving them a different perspective.

Sinomonde Ngwane

A Strong Black Lead is someone who is not afraid to challenge the status quo, someone who is strong, takes control of their life and is a great leader in their field.

Karabo Poppy

It means being able to pioneer and make things that are seen as unconventional the new normal.” She added that for her the term means “to achieve excellence, despite the push back and obstacles we as black people may encounter".

Karabo, who illustrated for When They See Us, says that after 30 years we would think that progress made would be more substantial, however, she calls out that we aren’t seeing a regression in progress, but rather a lack of moving forward. This resonates deeply with her in that she recognises that this lack of moving forward isn’t a third-world problem, but rather a global black problem. 

Delmaine says that Nola Darling, of She’s Gotta Have It, is her own person who is bold, who makes her own rules and doesn’t live under the laws of patriarchy - Delmaine thinks of herself in the same way.


Sinomonde says that Ruby, from Good Girls, resonates with her in that she entered a male-dominated industry and took on a role that is redefining, challenging and dominating, which inspired Sinomonde to have a little more Ruby in her.


What, therefore, makes this project uplifting is the fact that in South Africa, the majority of the population are black and woman. However, this demographic is the one that faces the worst kind of tragedies and reality on a daily basis. From natural hair getting banned in schools, to an increase in domestic abuse, femicide and ongoing inequality in the workplace.

In the face of adversity, it's refreshing to have a toast for young women creatives whether they're designing new coins or illustrating black characters from their favourite TV series.

All images: Supplied

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