ForMeByMe, An Ode To Self Love By Mbhali Manzini

Mbhali Manzini is an illustrator, art director, and one of the self-love movement’s early pioneers. She graduated from the Open Window Institute in Centurion with a degree in Arts and Visual Communication in 2015, which led to her working in advertising. She has worked on the visual identities of a range of South African corporations, including Standard Bank, FNB, ABSA, and Samsung, to mention a few. Her passion for art began as a young girl when she was captivated by her brothers’ love of drawing and felt compelled to join and learn how to make her drawings as realistic as possible. She started taking art classes and found solace in solitude, which eventually allowed her to fully express herself. Mbhali’s work as an illustrator is frequently whimsical, with vibrant colours, and is always unique to the individual with whom it is created; what inspires her art are great stories that happen to ordinary people. She believes in occupying and cultivating the spaces in which she finds herself, especially as a black woman. We encountered her work at the Design Indaba Emerging Creatives 2019 at the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition and exhibition, where she is currently an Artist Alliance Incubatee.

She started her brand, ForMeByMe, after witnessing a lack of representation and the imposed beauty standards that were not relevant to her and other black women. She posted her illustrations on social media, where she received positive feedback, and soon everyone wanted their own personalized illustration. Manzini has created through mediums such as personalized graphic phone covers, t-shirts, pictures, and laptop stickers. ForMeByMe is a brand dedicated to instilling a sense of belonging in everyone by celebrating self-love, acceptance, and self-awareness. I started this by illustrating people and asking them: what is self-love? What does it mean to you? And then turning those illustrations into phone cases, as a reminder for when you’re on social media, and you’re seeing someone that you like, or wished you looked like – that you are enough, and you are worthy,” she adds. She found that people appreciate themselves when they experience themselves through her art.

What is something you wish your younger self would know?

“Something that I wish my younger self would know, is you are stronger than you think. and I say that because I lost my mom when I was 23. With that came a lot of growing up; being responsible for myself, being grateful for the lessons that she has taught me, and my upbringing, man, because it has made me the person that I am today, you know? And yeah, that I can face everything.” 

She usually approaches self-love through the eyes of others, but she intends to shine a light on herself and share her own personal narrative. She wants to be more open about her art and her journey, sharing more about her background and having her work widely exhibited, as well as continuing to sell phone covers that promote and support the movement.

Between 10 and 5