South African creative Menzi Ndlovu isn’t just a one-minute man

Johannesburg-based illustrator Menzi Ndlovu immortalises everyday people in one minute sketches.

Sketching and colouring his way through everything is familiar territory for Durban-born artist and architectural designer Menzi Ndlovu. After winning a local colouring competition at six years old, Ndlovu developed into a primary school learner who reimagined his favourite cartoon characters and classmates on an A4 exercise book. Now, with greater exposure to the digital world and graphic design, the University of Witwatersrand School of Architecture product recreates images of the young Johannesburg locals who catch his eye.

In his latest series, oneminutesketch: Everyday People, the illustrator immortalises his fashionable subjects, leaving them stylish while their faces are stripped of detail. “They’re almost like the faceless mannequins you see at your favourite retail store. And yes, if you're wondering, it does take just under one minute to illustrate them,” he explains.

As a consumer of social media, Ndlovu uses his Instagram feed as a source of inspiration. While he admits that he dislikes the frenetic city he moved to in order to pursue an education in architecture, he does give it credit for exposing him to the far-ranging cultures and skills that have advanced his creative eye and talent. “Johannesburg is like a filthy rubbish bin with a gold bar right at the bottom. All you have to do is focus on the gold and ignore everything else,” he explains.

Included in his body of work are the curved lines that he draws as an ode to women’s bodies. “These are all from my imagination. I had no reference images or undressed subjects sitting in my work space. I guess that makes the person on the white canvas the woman of my dreams,” he jokes.

He has collaborated with South African Hip Hop artists like Smashis before the former Cashtime Fam member enlisted Ndlovu’s hand for the cover of his EP, Simelane. He also forms part of the creatively boundless, local collective MadApple and has flexed his talents for various brands in previous collaborations.

Written by Yethu Mtshali