South African artists make affirmation-based illustrations to lift your spirit

It is widely known that positive thinking and affirmation is not only good for your health and state of mind, but also motivates you to reach your goals. To help you veer more towards the magical view of life, we asked 10 artists to create or share visual metaphors for their favourite uplifting phrases. The results are simple illustrations that pack powerful messages.

Qondile Dlamini

Location: Cape Town
Who? Qondile is a visual designer. At the moment she is working on the rebrand for Akan Organics, a beauty start-up who create natural skin and hair care products inspired by age-old African remedies.

What do you want people to feel from this work? This affirmation is from Erykah Badu’s song Bag Lady. It serves as a reminder that it is not mandatory for us to always obsess over every little problem and lose ourselves in it, rather we should focus our energy on being the best version of ourselves.

Nompilo Sibisi

Location: Cape Town
Who? Nompilo is an architecture student at the University of Cape Town who uses the power of the doodle to speak about “mental health, self love and awkward life stuff.”

What do you want people to feel from this work? You don’t have to be ashamed or dismissive of your emotions. Acknowledging how I feel and accepting them as valid emotions is always the hardest step for me. Working through them comes next.

Helen Wells

Location: Cape Town
Who? Helen grew up in a small suburb in Bellville, Cape Town with drawing being her staple activity. “I always wanted to make comics and ended up studying visual art where I started playing with film and animation,” she shares. She is both a visual artist and one half of rock duo Hyroine.

What do you want people to feel from this work? My illustrations are mostly ambiguous so that there is room for multiple readings. Often they are happy and sad at the same time, so I think people can be affected by whichever aspect they relate to.

Megs Woolley

Location: Joburg
Who? Megs is an art director and graphic designer. “The time-keeping in my illustration in no way represents my Monday to Saturday,” she says.

What do you want people to feel from this work? It’s good to have your ducks in a row; there’s always going to be things you need to achieve and get through, products that can solve things for you BUT you should also learn to freestyle a little (just like my bag of onions drawing skills). Embrace and enjoy what you can’t control.

Saint Rose

Location: Joburg
Who? Graphic designer Kgabo Mametja, who goes by the creative moniker Saint Rose, is best known for her bold character illustrations.

What do you want people to feel from this work? Through my artwork I’d like people to feel anything they feel and be bold about it.

Jason Ngibuini

Location: Joburg
Who?Jason is an architecture student who recently completed his Honours degree at Wits University. In his spare time he creates digital illustrations of characters inspired by anime, comic books and video games. 

What do you want people to feel from this work? I would like my artwork to become a platform for positive messages that appeal to a wide audience. I have found that self-admiration can be a daily challenge that many of us go through. My illustrated figures, sometimes faceless, are aimed at communicating positive messages of self-appreciation and love.

Alison Rachel

Location: Amsterdam
Who? Alison Rachel is a content strategist and illustrator, who has lived between South Africa and Holland. She makes zines and products on the topic of self love and runs a fun feminist Instagram account called Recipes For Self Love.

What do you want people to feel from this work? A sense of connection, that they’re not alone in feeling all the things they feel as a human living in the world and that they’re normal but also special.

Tessa Wagener

Location: Joburg
Who? Tessa is a graphic designer who enjoys “baking cakes and making dresses and crafting”. She’s also been known to keep a few plants alive in her day.

What do you want people to feel from this work? It serves as a reminder for practicing optimism and positive thinking daily, or at least trying to. The phrase is something I stumbled onto one day when I really needed it, and the affirmation serves me well. Sometimes practicing positive thinking against the harshest of odds can make a bad day just a little bit better, and who doesn’t want that?

Daniella Viglietti

Location: Cape Town
Who? Eighteen-year-old illustrator Daniella Viglietti, also known as Fairy, took up digital art three years ago. “I love to design characters, their background stories and their universes. I plan to one day to own my own animation and design studio to bring all my characters to life,” she shares.
What do you want people to feel from this work? The affirmation in this piece acknowledges that often good things come out of bad situations and everyone has the power to rise above and attain their hopes and dreams.

Zama Dlamini

Location: Durban
Who? Zama Dlamini is an illustrator and graphic designer. She considers herself a surrealist. “I revel in the stuff of dreams and the mysterious.”

What do you want people to feel from this work? A sense of wonder and exuberance about life, while hopefully feeling a bit uncomfortable because that’s when you get thinking.

*This story has been updated to include an additional illustrator.

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