The Portfolio: Sindiso Nyoni talks brands, values and nostalgia

When I look at the world as an artist, I tend to view it through an optimistic lens. I often like to focus on beauty, because  I value creativity above every­thing else.

I value self-expression in ways that often create discomfort, which is why I feel artists excel in providing the world with mirrors to observe and understand ourselves better.

Although it’s a very thin line, I do critique my involvement with the various brands I’ve worked with, often ensuring that the brand’s ethos does not conflict with my belief systems and integrity as a visual artist.

If a brand is not in line with my visual art messaging, which is often centred around inspiring people and improving the human condition, (stemming from my activist roots), I most often will reject that particular project. 

My relationship with Hennessy dates back to 2018 when I was selected  as one of eight African creative  entrepreneurs to feature in the second instalment of the distinctive Hennessy VS brand campaign — Never Stop. Never Settle. It focused on pioneers who are making the creativity of Africa shine. 

When the Zoo Lake basketball court  brief came along, it was a full-circle moment, because I had first engaged (professionally) with the NBA brand back in 2017, when I was commissioned by NBA Africa to create once-off art pieces that commemorated three African legends who played in the NBA. Before my professional engagement with the Hennessy and NBA brands, I had grown up on NBA basketball as a young lad in Bulawayo. (I’m a big Allen Iverson fan.) 

I went on to play in my high-school years and have always been an avid fan of the game. So there was also a nostalgic connection to the game with this particular project.

My approach is often informed by the research stage. I usually spend a day or two fully immersed in the project, its connections and any information, visually, before I move on to sketching these ideas and crafting.  

The inspiration around my design is drawn from the time I spent in Cognac, France  (about a week), as well as the diverse, indigenous craft techniques of the southern regions of Africa. These include handmade objects with beadwork patterns, tapestries, and batik textiles.

The details of the design consist of a sun at its centre, representing the warmth of the continent. It is depicted alongside ripple patterns to mimic the flow of the water at Zoo Lake and represent the Charente River in Cognac. 

While I was in France, I learnt that the Charente carried the precious cognac barrels along the maritime trading routes, eventually leading to the expansion of Hennessy around the world. 

 The design also employs an emotive use of a robust red, reminiscent of the colours in the distillery. I laced them with gold and yellow on a dominant black background to suggest the strength of the people on the continent. The patterns used represent water and earth elements. 

It was important to incorporate and pay tribute to contemporary African art inspired by the continent, in particular Zimbabwe and South Africa. I also made use of the iconic “Bras Armé” symbol, subtly redesigned to integrate the NBA partnership with basketball in hand. 

In The Paint is part of a global series of artistic collaborations on basketball in the community. Sindiso Nyoni collaborated with Hennessy. 

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