Joburg creative illustrates new and inclusive Zulu love letters

Titled Ngi Yak’Verstana, 24-year-old graphic designer and illustrator Zebulon Chuenyane has created a series of valiant illustrations that pays tribute to diverse types of love and the Zulu love letter; traditional Zulu handbeaded messages of affection. This striking series represents the different types of love in Chuenyane’s world.

The different love letters represent the love between a mother and child, father and child and same sex and heteronormative relationships. “I used this as a modern Zulu love letter, a Zulu love letter that tries to cater to everyone,” says the multi-talented creative.

“‘Ngi yak’ verstana’ is a tsotsi taal phrase, which in this context means ‘I Love You’. It is a combination of two languages, isiZulu and Afrikaans. ‘Verstana’ is taken from the Afrikaans word ‘verstaan’, which means understand. And ‘ngi ya’ meaning, I in isiZulu. This phrase is not limited to love, it also means I understand you.”

Through this the former University of Johannesburg and graphic design learnership at Umuzi Academy graduate aims to illustrate the disconnect between some cultural practices and modern society. “As much as the Zulu love letter are a way to communicate love, they do not always reflect and represent the society in which we live; as most the shapes, colour and meaning attached to the letter refer to love between a man and a woman.”

“Love should not be restricted to just that. So this is not your typical Zulu love letter, these illustrations try to give a more accurate reflection of love in a modern society.”

Follow Chuenyane’s work on Instagram instagram.com/zebulon_chuenyane


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