INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr
Johannesburg-based artist Kgabo Mametja, also known as Saint Rose, creates bold illustrations inspired by women and their vast experiences.
What inspires you about the female form and how do you translate this into your work?
The female form is represented excessively in art but often, especially in a more historical context, this is through the perspective of the heterosexual man… male gaze. I made a conscious decision to not only illustrate women, primarily black women but also to find a way to give the women I draw some agency. I’m in awe of female bodies and how they exist and change. My main source of inspiration is women owning their choices and having fun, however they choose to.
What are you trying to evoke by using women as your subject matter?
I’m trying to evoke the feeling of being seen by the women who enjoy my work. My aim is to break stereotypes and provide representation for women who often don’t fit into the mould. For instance, it’s important for me to show that a “powerful woman” isn’t just one thing or that “sexy” exists in multiple forms.
How did you get into digital illustration?
I left home at 16 to study visual art at NSA (National School of Arts) and then went on to Vega School to get my degree in visual communications. It was during this period that I fell in love with branding and commercial art. This, along with my desire to create work that interested me, was what got me to teach myself how to illustrate. I basically picked up a Computer Arts Illustrator manual and went for it.
How do you approach creating a new illustration?
I have a design background, so I tend to approach illustrating similarly. The idea always comes first, especially if it’s work that is briefed in. With ideation comes way too much scamping and colour picking; then I move everything over to Illustrator where I play around until I get the composition right.
What is your opinion on South African design?
Generally, I think that the design industry is doing really well. Accessible South African design and designers are getting the recognition that they deserve on a global scale and that is incredible. However, I do think that my little chunk of the industry, graphic design and illustration, still has a long way to go. These are both very powerful mediums and tools, but they always seem to be an afterthought when it comes to their commercial influence. I’d like us to get to the point where young people can leave school knowing that being an illustrator is a sustainable option and a way to make a living.
See more of Saint Rose’s work on Instagram.