Sinalo Ngcaba

We chat with Johannesburg based illustrator and graphic designer about her work and journey. She uses her illustration to comment on society and "evoke emotions that can change the world for the better, to record and document stories of the current world we live in"

CN: Please introduce yourself, Who you are, and what you do?

Sinalo Ngcaba: My name is Sinalo Ngcaba, I'm a 25-year-old illustrator and graphic designer from East London but now based in Johannesburg.

CN: What was growing up in East London like?

Sinalo Ngcaba: It was cool, it's a  beautiful small town. I spent most of my time at home though because my late grandmother was strict. That's when I think I started developing my art skills.

CN: What type of art were you making?
Sinalo Ngcaba:
I was very crafty always cutting and pasting, I liked collages and painting mostly when I was at home. At school, I was doing pen doodles in class and drawing my classmates. Made me appreciate portraits at a young age.

CN: Do you still have all that work somewhere? Do you ever look at the work for inspiration and ideas?

Sinalo Ngcaba: My primary school work is with my mom, she loves it. I definitely look back at my work from high school and varsity. My current style I started in high school but I thought it was ugly then. When I had a look at my old work beginning of lockdown, I decided to try working on it again and now I'm fully comfortable with it.

CN: How has your family taken to you being a full-time creative?

Sinalo Ngcaba: I'm lucky, both my parents have been very supportive from the beginning, they still worry a lot about my financial security because they've seen a lot of artists struggle but they trust in my talent, that it will pay off.

CN: What is your typical day like and has the Global Pandemic impacted your schedule?

Sinalo Ngcaba: I've always been a morning person, so I've set up a simple routine for myself. Yoga and snack break with a lot of work sessions (give myself max 2 hours to work on 1 thing at a time.) As a freelancer, I sometimes get overwhelmed with client work and personal work, so setting alarms to work on each helps a lot. I have more time than ever right now, which I am grateful for. I struggle with managing my time so calendar helps lol.

CN: How do you get clients?

Sinalo Ngcaba: Through social media mostly and word of mouth I guess, most of the inquiries I get are driven from Instagram.

CN: How do you balance personal work and client work?

Sinalo Ngcaba: I'm still trying to figure that out haha If I have a deadline that is far then I use that gap for personal work. 

CN: What do you think is the role of “creatives” in the world?

Sinalo Ngcaba: Our role is so big and doesn't simplify into just making things pretty. To solve problems, make the world aware of those problems, evoke emotions that can change the world for the better, to record and document stories of the current world we live in.

CN: You have done that with your work, how has been the reception?

Sinalo Ngcaba: It's been good, I think even if a person doesn't share or like it, it's okay because just seeing it is enough to plant a seed. 

CN: How important is collaboration in your creative life?

Sinalo Ngcaba: I think collaboration is very important, I've only recently started working with other artists (projects coming out later in the year) and I want to have a creative ecosystem, where different ideas are shared and combined to make an even bigger impact.

CN: We are doing a quick t-shirt collaboration, what made you create the design on Gender-Based Violence in this style and language?

Sinalo Ngcaba: I got tired of seeing images of beat up women, tired of seeing messages that are directed at women and not men who are the actual cause of the problem. I chose the barber art style because it's a great way to infiltrate a space where men are in every day. Initially I wanted it up at hair salons and barbershops but I realized that the style is so iconic in black culture all over, it can be placed anywhere and have that strong message.

CN: Really true, using design to get the core message and targeting the core audience. As men, we have been quite useless in being loud and standing up for women and holding our peers accountable.

Sinalo Ngcaba: I agree, it's a very uncomfortable topic but it has to be addressed, but its what’s needed now.

CN: What is the creative ecosystem like in Joburg for you?

Sinalo Ngcaba: Haha, honestly it's very small and tight. We seeing the same creatives being recycled for projects/gigs and not enough variety. There's a lot of young creatives who are doing amazing things but unfortunately if they not friend's with "so and so" it might take a while for them to get their break and have a platform to tell their story and inspire. 

It's a popularity game.

CN: Very true lol. How are you managing the business side of being creative?

Sinalo Ngcaba: I'm struggling a little because we never get taught about that in school but I'm getting help from others who have been doing it longer.

CN: Great to learn from peers. What has the current Corona pandemic taught you about yourself and people?

Sinalo Ngcaba:Hmm, for myself is I'm figuring out what's really important to me, my worth as an artist. I think people, in general, are now forced to think out of the box on how they want to see the new world and obviously live safer.

CN: Very true. Who are some of the creatives you look up to that we should know?

Sinalo Ngcaba: Upson Martin from Lagos @u.c1_37,  Duduza Mchunu - @duduzamchunu, Njabulo Hlophe - @dirty_native_chief, Mihlali Jadezweni - @mihlvli,  Theo Martins @theoposture. just to name a few

CN: What advice/message do you have for your fellow creatives in Africa? Especially the ones starting out 

Sinalo Ngcaba: Stay true to yourself, don't feel pressured to head a certain direction in your creative work or process. Spend time on trying to better yourself.

CN: What’s next in your journey? New talents/projects etc.?

Sinalo Ngcaba: Trying out new mediums, and more collaborations, I can't speak on upcoming projects but excited to say it's with some very dope international black creatives.

CN: What does creativity mean to you?

Sinalo Ngcaba: Being able to go places with ideas or do something that’s unimaginable. 


Thank You



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