Qondile Dlamini is a graphic designer by day, and the savvy side-hustling artist @qewdoodles by night. We’re obsessed with her vivid, energetic illustration style, and the fierce female subjects she depicts in her work – so we simply had to commission her to create some signature graphics in Over, for our users to share their own ideas.
Incorporating South African vernacular equivalents of empowering English expressions into her designs, is perhaps Qondile’s unique signature. It’s such a simple, yet powerful gesture of representation, and we wanted to share more of that with the world.
We decided to co-ordinate her project with South African Women’s Month, in August, and Qondile seized on the idea of empowering women to celebrate themselves and others with simple phrases: “You go girl!”, ”Gold”, “So pretty!” – but she did so in the language most authentic to them; their mother tongue that so rarely gets seen in art and graphic design.
We chatted to Qew about her work, and how her identity as a young female creative in Africa informs this.
Where did your journey with art and design begin?
I wish I could tell you a magical story, but I have been drawing all my life. I did art all through high school and then went on to study both architecture and visual communication at varsity. So it has always been a part of my life.
What tools do you use to create your work?
I work full time as a designer at an advertising agency so I am pretty savvy with the computers. I also don’t like a mess, so I work almost exclusively on digital. For my illustration work, I love my iPadPro and Apple pen. I also use my Wacom Cintiq and my Macbook Pro depending on what I need to accomplish. I also prefer to work on digital because you get to have everything in one place. I can experiment and produce finished products on screen with different apps that allow for myriad possibilities.
Your work combines graphics with typography, and text is a big feature in your work. Would it be fair to say that there's often a message in your work?
I think that we create all art to communicate a message – whether it is to document a time, the spread of awareness, to inspire people’s thinking and their understanding, or to spread propaganda – at the heart of it is always to convey a message.
My compositions are influenced by my advertising background. The combination of a visual and copy/headline is a traditional advertising language. And it still works to land a message. I borrow that kind of thinking in my work. I’m not much of a copywriter but I also love drawing type, especially to make it more expressive. Copy or text also allows me to bring my work back home making it more authentic, because those are things I’d say to my friends or people I know.
Your work usually features women as your subjects, and has a fierce feminine energy. Do you draw these characters from real life, or your imagination?
A bit of both, but predominantly my imagination. I like to draw how I am actually feeling, and that’s when I get the best expressions. I use images as reference to build a character or a composition, I love studying strong female poses. Sometimes I will see an image of a woman that I really like, and it will inspire me to draw.
I'm sure you have to market yourself to get new clients. How much do you regard yourself as a brand, with the same challenges as any brand trying to stand out in the crowd.
I don’t consider myself much of a brand yet, and I don’t think I want people to think of me as a brand… that sounds stressful. I think my objectives also differ from a brand because I am always creating whether it’s for a profit or not. I’m always excited to work on bringing to life products or content that I, as a black woman, wish existed or included us.
A brand has many stakeholders to answer to – I’m just a girl with some taste and skills. I like to create artwork/content that facilitates representation and I believe there will always be a need for it, because it fills a gap that has always been ignored. Whenever I can squeeze my identity into a project I definitely do. I don’t think I struggle with standing out because I don’t worry about that, I know what I can do. There is space for all of us to create and tell stories and the people who relate to my work will find it.
In the words of Saul Bass: I just I want to make beautiful things, even if no one cares. I still have a lot to learn about becoming a brand but I’m going to have fun figuring it out slowly. I’m always keen to learn so if anyone has any advice, holler at your girl!
You're based in Johannesburg, but originally from Eswatini, a kingdom most people outside South Africa would know very little about. What can you tell us about your culture that you think more people ought to know?
Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) is a beautiful little Kingdom in Southern Africa. Swati people are some of the kindest most hospitable people you will ever meet. We live under an absolute monarch and have a very conservative way of life, this works for some and not so much for others. Eswatini has a very rich culture our traditions and customs still play a huge role in present day.
How does your identity as a young African woman, with a unique cultural heritage and experience, inform the work that you put out into the world?
I am proud of my identity, it is the only thing I fully own. And I like for my personality to come out through my work. This is because I come from a culture where women aren’t always heard (we all do really) so being heard is always an aspiration of mine. Being seen and heard as a black woman through my art is an honor I don’t take lightly. I am hoping to continue creating work that people enjoy and find useful that will draw from an my identity because I have a lot to say.
What value do you think creativity & art have in a world striving towards equality?
We have never lived in an equal society, so we have to really imagine what that will look like. Art and creativity allow us to create the world we want to live in. on a deeper level I think art and creativity are mediums we use to explain ourselves as well as understand each other, without it we would have very limited means of understanding our own cultures as well as other peoples cultures. I believe understanding each other better will push to a more equal society.
As champions of freedom of expression, artists are able to build platforms where people listen. It very important to ensure that we have artists who use their platform for good especially in the fight to create a more equal society. Artists definitely won’t solve world hunger but we will keep society inspired to move towards action.
Qew illustrated and designed the ‘Big Up the Girrl’ graphic pack specifically for Over, to commemorate Women’s Month in South Africa. It’s a delicious mixed bag filled with hearts and sparkles, flower crowns, diamonds, flames, botanicals, queens in floral crowns, and siSwati phrases to big up your girls.
You’ll find it in the Over app right now, and use these gorgeous graphics to customize your brand’s social media and print designs.
These are some templates our professional designers have created using Qew’s graphics in Over. You can find them in our template feed, and either use them as is, or personalize them with your own copy.
Find Qondile on Instagram, and DM her for a one-of-a-kind print.
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