Main Photo by: Chris Preyser
Words by: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
I believe that all young creatives across the world need to discover one thing in order to attain everlasting success, that thing is called authentic power.
Famous spiritual teacher, Gary Zukav, defines authentic power as, “When the personality comes fully to serve the energy of its soul.”
Slaying Goliath (Born David Tshabalala) has become one of those artists who have been fortunate enough to discover their authentic power at an early age. As a result, he has immaculately designed a career around his passion, which is illustration & design.
David is the co-founder of Suketchi, a creative and design agency that offers graphic design, illustration, branding and content design.
The young designer has also created an inspiring annual social media exhibition, titled Run the World, which sees him illustrate inspirational African women, every August.
The exhibition shows that he is not just a creative entrepreneur, but a young man who also uses his work to inspire and capture major social and cultural moments in the African diaspora.
We caught up with David to talk about his inspiring design career.
Blacklight: So when did you truly fall in love with illustrating?
David: I started in crèche. Like everyone else in crèche, we used to get crayons and paper to learn about colour. But I took it further than most kids because I really enjoyed it. While to them it was a mere activity, to me it was something that I truly looked forward to.
BL: Growing up in a small town like Harrismith, what inspired you to pursue a career in design?
D: I think that is the beauty of media, television to be specific, because there wasn’t much social media back then. I used to watch cartoons and I knew that is what I wanted to do. I didn’t know exactly what that career was called, it was just amaPopeye to me. I realised that could happen in Jo’burg and so in high school, I started working towards making it happen.
I enrolled for graphic designing at Central University of Technology (CUT), in Bloemfontein. Drawing was offered as one of the subjects in the course. The curriculum was quite a challenge for me, especially the technical aspects of it. I was not the best in class but I think I had the most passion and that allowed me to grow and go further.
BL: Now that you are pursuing the career, do you feel like there is room to advance within the field?
D: Definitely. I think illustration is a nice alternative to photography. Illustration adds quite an interesting flavour to images and I think it will be quite a big medium as time goes by.
BL: Was it challenging turning your passion into a career?
D: I would say it was quite natural for me because graphic designing was my main thing. Graphic design is kind of better in terms of jobs because it’s your logos, letterheads, billboards etc. What I used to do was to incorporate illustration into that and that sort of set me apart. In our industry, once you do something great for one brand, it becomes easier for other brands to approach you or trust you.
BL: What would you say was the earliest defining moment in your career?
D: I would definitely say being included in the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans, in 2015. That really boosted my confidence because you get nominated by the public. To know that there are people even outside of design that get inspired by my work was quite a big accolade.
BL: There are still many young creatives coming to Jo’burg to chase success but very few attain the latter. What would you say one needs to do differently in order to “Make It”?
D: I think you must treat yourself as a brand. You need to be able to recognise opportunities no matter how small they may seem and use them to get to the next step. It’s also quite crucial to approach the right people and not just affiliate with just anyone. You must also package yourself properly so that people can be able to take you and your brand seriously.
BL: What inspired you to create your own company, ‘Suketchi’?
D: FYI (For Your Information), the name Suketchi means sketching in Japanese. I used to work at Soul Providers, which is a marketing agency. There was such a strong demand for design work that it made sense for me and my boss to create a new platform, so we created a creative and design company.
BL: What would you say inspires you as a creative entrepreneur?
D: I am inspired by young black creatives because I think this industry is still traditionally white. I would love to work with more black creatives. As the co-owner of Suketchi, I love the idea of inspiring other black creatives in the industry.
BL: I think I have had quite a few conversations with other creatives and collaborating is one of the main things they advise other creatives to embrace. In your view, do you think young black creative’s are embracing the concept?
D: I can say they are starting to embrace the concept because I have seen it happen. I love that you also see people with different skills or from different sectors collaborate. I would say they are collaborating more because everyone seems to have respect for their craft.
For instance, I am not a photographer and I respect photographers so I am not going to wake up one morning and say, ‘I’m a photographer’. If I need a great photographer then I always find a photographer from my network pool and that’s collaboration. I believe you work your ass off to be able to earn any title and it shouldn’t be different in the creative field.
BL: What is the bigger plan for Suketchi?
D:We are working towards acquiring our own office space because we want the business to have its own infrastructure, our own little team of designers so that we can have some sort of independence. Those are just some of the little things, but I think like any company I would like to see it reach its full potential.
BL: Do you recall a time when you had the most fun working on a project?
D: I would say it’s the movie Wonderboy for President by Kagiso Lediga. I was doing the artwork for social media as part of the promotion and marketing of the movie.
As a creative, projects like that can be very interesting. You also get to see how people interact with the work in a public space and it can be quite rewarding to witness that.
BL: What inspired you to create the “Run the World” campaign?
David: Every year in August I draw women who inspire me and who are doing amazing things. I post one illustration per day, share it on social media along with the story of that woman. That for me is a project that I do because I am inspired to do and it also connects me to the people, and that’s why I love it. I was simply inspired by the great women we have in Africa.
BL: Can you recall a conversation with a fellow creative that moved you or changed how you looked at something?
D: It was one I had with one of my former mentors, Wandile Zondo, who owns a store called Thesis in Soweto. I bumped into him and we had a great chat. I was celebrating because my company had just reached our first financial target.
One of the things he advised me was that I should still stay focused and keep my feet on the ground. As someone who has been quite successful, he was trying to highlight that as much that was a great achievement, there was still so much more that I needed to do. It made me realise that we must always stay focused on the work and not be lost in the money.
BL: Moving forward, what sort of person do you hope to become?
D: I would truly love to be used as some sort of inspiration. Even if I am not the best illustrator but I would love for my journey to serve as some sort of inspiration to anyone trying to pursue anything. Having some sort of influence on some kid from anywhere is something you can’t put a price on, man.
To see more of David’s work you can go to: Suketchi.