Joburg creative illustrates new and inclusive Zulu love letters ‘that cater to everyone’

Zebulon Chuenyane is a 24-year-old graphic designer and illustrator from Mpumalanga, who resides in Joburg and is behind up and coming clothing brand Clan.Ish. The multitalented creative has created a series of bold illustrations that pay homage to diverse types of love and the Zulu love letter; traditional Zulu handbeaded messages of affection.

Zebulon Chuenyane

Titled Ngi Yak’Verstana, the bold and striking series, according to Zebulon, “represents the different types of love in my world. The different love letters represent the love between a mother and child, father and child and same sex  and heteronormative relationships, et cetera. I used this as a modern Zulu love letter, a Zulu love letter that tries to cater to everyone.”

Having studied at University of Johannesburg and being part of a graphic design learnership at Umuzi Academy, the emerging entrepreneur and creative says, “‘Ngi yak’ verstana’ is a tsotsi taal phrase, which in this context means ‘I Love You’. It is a combination of two languages, isiZulu and Afrikaans. ‘Verstana’ is taken from the Afrikaans word ‘verstaan’, which means understand. And ‘ngi ya’ meaning, I in isiZulu. This phrase is not limited to love, it also means I understand you.”

Zebulon Chuenyane

This illustration seeks to highlight the disconnect between some cultural practices and modern society, according to Zebulon. “As much as the Zulu love letter are a way to communicate love, they do not always reflect and represent the society in which we live; as most  the shapes, colour and meaning attached to the letter refer to love between a man and a woman.

“Love should not be restricted to just that. So this is not your typical Zulu love letter, these illustrations try to give a more accurate reflection of love in a modern society.”

Zebulon ChuenyaneZebulon ChuenyaneZebulon Chuenyane Zebulon Chuenyane

Zebulon ChuenyaneZebulon Chuenyane

Between 10 and 5