Drawing The Line With David Tshabalala


You may not recognise his name, but it’s unlikely that you have not come across one of his inspired illustrations. Lynette Botha talks to creative extraordinaire, David Tshabalala, about life, art and why he’d invite president Cyril Ramaphosa to dinner…

Bonang and Boity have used his illustrations as their social media profile pictures. He’s worked with big guns like Audi, The SAMAs and Yogi Sip for Danone. And songstress Shekhinah personally asked him to create a T-shirt for her featuring his artwork of the late Uyinene Mrwetyana, for her to wear during her performance on the day that Uyinene was laid to rest.


The Davetionary

While David Tshabalala has been a designer and illustrator for years, it’s his project ‘The Davetionary’ that got the public to take note. Through his thoughtful – sometimes sad, sometimes funny, always moving – artworks shared on Instagram, he provides timeous commentary on current events that
he finds interesting and that are newsworthy to the public.

“I like the resonance and relevance of my work on this particular project,” he says. “The passion started when I realised that to stand out from the crowd, I needed to share my work in a unique way. Design at its core is visual communication and what better way to connect with my audience than using a medium that I love and that people from all walks of life can enjoy?”

Trevor Noah illustration. David Tshabalala
Trevor Noah illustration. David Tshabalala

A Career As A Creative

When asked why he thinks sharing these narratives through drawing is important, he answers, “They’re not just drawings; I suppose illustration as a design medium, and Instagram as a platform, elevates the nature and reach of how my work gets traction and popularity. It’s important because what happens on the internet stays there forever, so my work will live on for coming generations.”

David, who grew up in Harrismith, says that he first discovered his artistic ability at the age of six. “My favourite part of the day at preschool was not only colouring in, but also drawing and developing my own characters. I was very competitive and always wanted to be the best artist amongst my peers.

Even at that age, I had a strong sense of identity and style with regards to creating work that stands out,” he explains. “My childhood was very ‘normal’ and I was raised in an environment that enabled a strong sense of community and family. I’ve always loved the arts and I preferred that to sporting activities.”

It’s no surprise then that this passion led him to pursue a career as a creative. “Yes and no,” he laughs. “It also had to do with the fact that I am very bad with numbers! I initially wanted to pursue fashion or photography, but those courses were very expensive, so I settled for Graphic Design. Fine Art was too
rigid and boring for me at the time.”

Uyinene Illustration. David Tshabalala
Uyinene Illustration. David Tshabalala

Forging Your Own Path

Besides ‘The Davetionary’, David has put his skills to great use in his creative agency, Suketchi, which he co-founded with his then-boss, Sarah- Jane Boden, who is also the founder of SoulProviders Collective. “When I used to work for Sarah as a junior-mid designer, I had plans to move on to work for ‘bigger’ and ‘better’ agencies and she convinced me to rather start my own branding and design agency,” he explains.

“She encouraged me to forge my own path and take the road less travelled, when other designers were seeking security in employment. Needless to say, I have no regrets.” With South Africa, and all its trials and triumphs, a big part of what he depicts in his work, David has a strong love for the country.

“I love our people’s authenticity, our ability to laugh at ourselves – even in tough times, our sense of ubuntu and how sport can unify the whole nation regardless of our issues. The Springbok World Cup victory is a good case in point.”

JESUS_IS_KING illustration. David Tshabalala
JESUS_IS_KING illustration. David Tshabalala

A Creative Reboot Dinner

As a creative, it’s hard to remain inspired all the time, which is why I ask David who he’d invite to dinner for a little creative reboot and some fresh insight. “Our President, Cyril Ramaphosa. He’s very strategic and I’d like to pick his brain on so many social issues because I’d like my work to help the citizens of our
country on a bigger scale.

“Will Smith; he’s multi-talented and his longevity and consistency in his craft I admire. He’s a family man but still down to earth and literally friends with his kids – I aspire to all of this. Kanye West; I love his music and how he always experiments with his craft, not afraid to try new things and freely express himself. And Steve Jobs – what he did with Apple as an iconic brand is still the template and hallmark of most companies. His passion to always prioritise good design and functionality
has been amazing to witness.”

Looking ahead, he’s excited for the future. “I hope to work with more major brands that I relate to; I’d like to publish a book, refine my online store, go back to school for a bit, guest lecture and pursue any other opportunities that may come my way.”

See more of David’s incredible work at slayinggoliath.co.za and on Instagram @slaying.goliath



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