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Shifting The Norm With Reebok’s Creator Collective Runner Up, Mila Nkwada

A 22-year-old continuous work of art in her final year of her degree, majoring in photography and communication design, Mila Nkwada believes she exists as performance art, inspired by films and Baroque paintings, with her life goal being to master all trades.

Creative Beginnings…

Growing up, I would not say I was exposed to a lot of art and the art spaces I have found myself in recently. I have, however had a passion for drawing and painting, so naturally, I took a great liking to visual arts in high school—more so the last two years. I also have had the opportunities to travel abroad and visit art galleries and experience new people and places which helped me learn a different perspective of what art could possibly be beyond the canvas or a page. I never really knew much about photography or art direction and communication design before I started my degree four years ago. But 2020?  2020 defined my interest in photography. Living alone during a pandemic, as sad as this may sound, I didn’t feel seen. I craved presence, to be noticed, to be seen, lol. So, because all I had was a camera, a tripod and plenty of time on my hands—I started taking pictures of myself and started seeing myself. And overtime, I realised the power in which an image has to allow a person to be seen, beyond perception; just as they see themselves. And so, creating spaces in which people can feel seen (especially young black girls) has become one of my main reasons to create. In a nutshell, I think I have always been an artist; it just became more intentional these past two years

What Inspires Her?

 I am inspired by plenty, but firstly—paintings. I tend to mostly curate images with one light as an ode to Rembrandt and the paintings to the baroque era. I’m in love with idea of knowing I can curate a ‘digital painting’ interpretation of fashion, beauty and all the likes of curating momentary storylines. Secondly, I’m intrigued by films and film stills—not so much the storylines, but the way in which a frame is curated; the art direction, essentially, and more specifically, the lighting and grading used across different scenes to evoke different moods etc. Thirdly: fashion—more so, the lack of representation of girls like me in the industry (growing up) and photographers such as Carlotta Guerrero and Jalen Amir inspire my creative decisions and choices in subject matter and how I’d like an inmate to be interpreted. But again, the list is long and more importantly I think it’s important to note that I am also genuinely inspired by the person I am becoming

On What We Can Expect To See From Her In The Near Future…

 I think the main thing you may look forward to seeing in the future from me—is more art. In all forms. After completing my degree in visual communications, I intend to invest in my other passions (being fashion and interior design). So, I’ll be studying short courses in fashion and design abroad and expanding my footprint beyond South Africa. I’m interested in creating a body of work over ten months that serves as a self-portrait of my skillsets in one art representation; in which I’ll creatively direct, set design, costume design and styling, model and also be the photographer for a self-titled look book. I am working towards opening a studio and creative space for young creatives looking to expand their portfolios and further their skillsets in any creative form. I’m hoping to help expose as many young creatives to the possibilities of what their talents could be—so expect workshops and pop-up events over the year, as well 

Mila entered the Reebok Make It Yours campaign, which saw the sneaker brand search for young disruptive SA creatives. Check out the rest of the winners and runner ups here, and make sure to follow more Mila’s artistic journey here.

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