Photography by Jamal Nxedlana

Shala The Unicorn – An artist of her time

I am an artist of my time I think that’s the only way to accurately describe myself. I depict, reinterpret, reimagine everything going on right now and my own experiences as an artist, as a person, as a female in South Africa.

Shala The Unicorn is a fine artist who describes her art as flowing from her hands. The painter, illustrator, sculptor, director and conceptual thinker’s work is known for its colourful implementation often making use of both complementary and contrasting colour palettes. “My art is about yourself, it’s kind of a reflection of yourself and your past. It’s about re-interpreting what we recall about how we as people of colour have been represented throughout history and how we present ourselves right now through certain images, through the language we have made through our culture, music, everything.”

The work ‘Delusions of Grandeur’ marks a shift within Shala’s practice, “the phrase comes from overestimating your value in anything, in someone else’s life, in a situation.” A piece that she refers to as dark, contrasts against prior expressions that were characterised by feelings of joy.

Working with the likes of adidas as a content creator on various campaigns as well as Spotify and The Watermelon Social Club, Shala is taking some time away from commissioned work and collaborations. As she explains “your work could get clouded.” She regards people’s interest in working with her as stemming from the fact that she does not fit neatly into any predefined category. “I’ve been able to present myself randomly and random enough to make it look deliberate.” She explains her practice as an expression of honesty in which she adds unique elements that make her viewers look again.

Speaking to her generation of creatives Shala explains that what sets them apart is their ambition. “…we [are] more prone to be reckless and to recklessly create and express ourselves.”

Born and raised in Johannesburg Shala has been racking up accolades since the age of eight when she received her first art award. Thereafter she attended The National School of Arts and began exhibiting her work at the age of 16. After leaving NSA Shala moved to Cape Town where she is currently studying Fine Arts at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. Shala the Unicorn is one of the spotlighted artists for the Miller Genuine Draft Art and Design series

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