The chameleon: Musonda Kabwe

Illustrator and graphic designer

Musonda “Müs” Kabwe is a 24-year-old Zambian-born, Jozi-bred illustrator and graphic designer.

He graduated from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2015 with a bachelor of technology degree in graphic design in the same year and was also selected to be a part of the Emerging Creatives Mentorship Programme hosted by the Design Indaba.

In 2017 he worked as a graphic designer for a branding agency but, after six months, he decided to quit his job and pursue his illustration work on his own terms. Kabwe has done work for the likes of Telkom, MTN and FNB and has had his work featured as far afield as Brazil.

Work and meaning

Kabwe specialised in iconography, vector and bitmap illustration. The lifeblood to Kabwe’s work is hybridity.

His graphics are bold and often include an interesting interplay between traditional and digital media. This mix is not only reflected in style but also form as his work often includes short animations and GIFs.

Beyond his commissioned work, Kabwe uses Instagram and the website to delve into more personal projects. One such project is No Narrativ, a comic that explores existentialism and millennial angst. The comic is not serialised and features diverse characters. A blue mask often appears on the faces of the characters but instead of only masquerading for the world, the characters often cannot see themselves.

No Narrativ has received positive reviews and has been featured by Design Indaba, Grolsch Canvas Gallery,and internationally on United Kingdom-based blog BetterShared.

In December last year Kabwe had a solo exhibition at Gallery 57 in Johannesburg, entitled Welcome Home, in which he showcased a wide variety of graphic prints in his signature hybrid style.

This hybridity was also reflected in the opening of the event itself, with Kabwe’s artistic and branding background colliding in a beautiful way.

Future plans

Kabwe has recently teamed up with Wade Moonsamy, 23, and Samu Belle, 25 — ranked first and third in the 2017 Loeries Designer rankings — to start BCKRDS.

BCKRDS is a Johannesburg-based media house. Their first project was an ode to Jozi, the city that moulded them, and is aptly named 011. They produced a line of T-shirts that paid homage to the different parts of the city they grew up in.

But Kabwe is not giving up on his freelance work under his illustration studio Müs.

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