Meet Nokwanda Themba, the Artist Exclusively Illustrating Women of Color

Johannesburg-based illustrator and visual artist, Nokwanda Themba, is someone South Africa’s art industry is very excited about. Her earliest memory of painting and drawing was when she was in the third grade; she had created a sketch of South Africa’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela. Her work has since been featured on international media sites and was recently recognized as one of the most inspiring women on the rise in the art and creative industry by “Run the World” exhibition.


What stands out about Themba’s work is that she chooses to only illustrate women of color. Her social media pages are an amalgamation that displays her admiration for black women and her views and opinions on topics such as race, feminism, sexuality, and mental illness – the central themes of some of her best work.
You can also expect to find illustrations of some of the most awe-inspiring women of our time: Solange Knowles, Serena Williams, Iman and many others. She has experimented with various artistic mediums in an effort to show off her artistic prowess and refine her skills and artistic voice.Afriquette had a quick chat with Nokwanda Themba this month about her art, womanism and the depiction of women in Marvel’s Black Panther film.

What influences your craft?

My art is mostly a catharsis for me. When I’m feeling depressed, or going through an existential nihilist crisis, I’m inspired to purge all that negative emotion into creating. I’m also inspired by other artists, and the need to improve my skill.


Talk us through your creative process.

My creative process begins with being inspired by other artists or a deep emotion. I usually use a type of paper that is rough and thick textured for watercolour use, then start by outlining the image with a soft light pencil using a laptop screen, then mix the coffee and tempera powder with warm water to create viscosity. I then start painting and simultaneously mixing the two to create my desired skin tone. When that dries, I shade dark areas with compressed charcoal to add texture then blend in with the water colour again. When all of this has dried, I use a black fine liner and a permanent marker to draw over the eyes, eyebrows, hair, etc.


Why do you choose to only illustrate women of color?

Women of color are indelibly beautiful, and amazing. I am constantly inspired by my muses. I’m also for representation of different women of color, my work is what I call a softer form of feminism. I’m especially a womanist.


Where would you like to see South African art in 10 years?

I would like to see more inclusive creative spaces and investment in black artists so they can profit and live off their talent.


Which artist would you like to collaborate with?

If I can get anywhere near Loyiso Mkize, who is basically a God in art, I would have done pretty well.


What are your thoughts on how women were portrayed in Black Panther?

OMG! What an amazing film, actually! I need to go watch it again, it blew my mind. Someone recently mentioned how for the first-time black women were not sexualised, our bodies were not sexualised, we weren’t seen as sexual objects. Instead, the women in the film were leaders and superheroes, as strong as the black men. I enjoyed the debates that the film sparked on Twitter as well. I cannot wait for the sequel.

This article was originally published on Afriquette