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Graphic designer sketches her way to the top

Mametja rubs shoulders with big brands, celebs

Karabo Ledwaba Journalist
Kgabo Mametja tried her luck in going solo and it paid off and put her on an international stage.
Kgabo Mametja tried her luck in going solo and it paid off and put her on an international stage.
Image: Supplied

Kgabo Mametja's illustrations have allowed her to work with big brands and celebrities.

From American pop star Lizzo to shoe brand Adidas, the 28-year-old graphic designer from Polokwane is on top of the world.

"I went to Vega in Randburg and studied visual communications there. It was a tough three years because it's a very expensive school. But I enjoyed my experience there because that is where I taught myself how to illustrate," she sad.

Mametja, who is a freelancer, used to work in advertising but was unhappy. 

"I have worked for every kind of agency imaginable. My experience throughout made me realise that I was not well-suited for agency, throughout this I was showing my work a bit more.

"Then when I was 25 [of age] Penguin Random House, based in New York, asked me to do a cover design for them for their 145th street book which had cool subject matters. I realised that when I was working weekends on illustrating I was having the time of my life."

Her work with the international publisher paid her enough money to pay rent for six months, while she pursued working as an illustrator full-time. 

"I was like, 'let me give myself this opportunity to try it out', and I have not looked back since. This is my fourth year doing this."

This leap of faith led her to landing an opportunity to illustrate art for Truth Hurts singer Lizzo for her 2021 Artbasel performance. 

"My agent said there is a Lizzo and Artbasel pitch...and they were talking like I'm already on board.

"They gave me no brief, only a lyric and that I can decide what I do. This was for background imagery and my work closed down Artbasel. I did this project while I was sick but it was such an easy flow and it came back with no changes and finalised with no changes."

Mametja said working with big brands has been affirming that she is on the right path.

"This was very affirming that I am in the right place."

The young artist also recently worked with Game store to make wallpaper and a project with Adidas on "the impossible is nothing" campaign which has taken the world by storm with its empowering message.

"I got to illustrate [for Adidas] a basketball court for this incredible woman called Asma Elbadawi who made sure hijabs were not banned in the Women's National Basketball Association. It was so incredible."

Mametja said she loves making people see how inspirational they are and to affirm their work. 

"I do things that give a voice to people," she said.

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