By Audrey T. Nyamucherera 

[Photographer: Lefa Ditshego] 

Ahead of the annual Investec Art fair, we wanted to show love to another one of our own in the community, an artist rebelling against the perception and limitations placed against her, her community and forced conclusions society creates and perpetuates. We delve into the mind and landscape of Sichumile Adam and her art. Why she creates, why she is who she is and where she’s going. Introducing Sichumile Adam.


Q: Hey Sichumile, how are you today?

A: I’m cool, I’ll be honest I’m a little nervous about the questions haha, but mostly excited, it’s also been a bit of a busy day. So, I’m glad we could still run this.

Q: Absolutely, look we’ve been chatting and looking at your art off the record, the work speaks for itself, but I think the people should hear from you now, can we start?
A: Yes, please.

Q: Did you always want to be an artist or did you stumble upon it?
A: So I've been doing art since forever. My first memory of art is, like, in grade four, because of my art teacher. But, you know, as, kids, we, like watching cartoons and my sister and I would draw like Bratz and the cartoons we watched. But then in high school, I took art as well. Okay. I didn't know if I wanted to do it as a career, but I got so consumed by it. Like, I can't imagine myself doing anything else.


Q: …And your family, what do they think of you pursuing art?
A: In a black household…Art doesn't always cut it you know. I don't think it's, like, the traditional route for us, it’s more a hobby, not all black parents imagine that for their child. But, luckily my high school was known for art, and my high school teacher encouraged me a lot, so she literally sat down with my mom and was like your child is good at art. Even when it came to picking subjects, it was like “you have to take visual arts because you're good at it. You're good at it.” This was important because a lot of the time kids just take stuff but, I was actually passionate about it, and I think they could see that.

Q: So do you feel supported by the people around you?

A: Of course. Even my mom now, she's so proud of us(Sichumile and her sister), and I haven't even done half the things that I want to do yet. That support is everything. That's why community is so important in this industry, because it can feel lonely. But there's people doing this and that and we’re all here to support each other in whatever way, so I don't know. Community is important that way.


Q: What's sort of been, like, the hardest or the most difficult part for your journey as an artist?
A: I think just trying to find your place can be difficult, particularly because it’s such a broad industry. It’s growing, it’s old yet young, things can be slow but fast at the same time, and I wasn't prepared for it. That’s why I'm grateful for the friends I have and for art communities, because that's literally the only way you’re exposed to it. But I think the hardest part is definitely being your biggest critic. It's hard because you find yourself  holding yourself back due to anxiety which rules your mind.  So you have to be confident in your art because you're making it.
I think sometimes recognizing my talents or recognizing why I'm doing this can be difficult.

Q: What are your three favourite things?
A: 1. Black art
2. Community
3. Entering my sisterhood and just enjoying my blackness

Q: Where do you think you are in your artistic journey, do you consider yourself a rising artist, established or still getting into it?
A: To be 100% honest with you. I am an artist already, I think, in fact I know everything is just a matter of time, I won’t only become an artist when I’m discovered or when my work is in museums and galleries. I’m an artist in my studio, an artist when I go home to my mom and even when I’m away with friends. I’ll always be an artist, regardless of where people think I am career-wise.

Q: Favourite song right now?
A: Right now I’m really feeling this song called ‘Acid Blue’ by ROHO and this other kid, that I don’t really know but yeah. I found it I’m loving it right now. I’m just really enjoying local music and connecting with creatives here.

Q: If you could have a solo show anywhere in the world where would you pick?

A: I think New York, for its colourful and energeticness. I imagine it’s like here(jhb). Plus Andy Warhol and his people did pop art and New York is one of the places that honours it most and nurtures the form. So I really want to extend my story and tell it from there too.




Q: How would you describe your art?

A: What do think of it?
Q1: It feels very layered when I just look at the mediums you went with. Then I consider how you incorporate our black people with nuances of luxury added to them or the space they are part of, but the strong presence of black paint in your pieces.

A: I’m glad you said that, so the reason I used to paint in all black but in different tones was show the nuances to blackness, there’s really many of us, many cultures, languages, but there’s still that blanket term to what we can be. So in certain pieces I’ve used one colour but there’s so many tones,  so many marks off of one piece. I mean I even like using just one paintbrush, for example this one here I’ve been using since high school(laughs). It’s literally on it last leg. So with each piece I learn, share experiences so I’m sharing there’s nuances and all the sides to blackness that should be seen.

Q: How did you arrive at incorporating beads into your art?
A: So I wanted to use more colour and got used to painting with black and white. So with beads, we all know beads, have a story with them and grew up with them as children and people living an African experience. So I essentially wanted to take a traditional material and apply it to explore it’s position even in 2024 and further because it’s not old fashioned but has always maintained its relevance and impact. So I’m sort of creating or reinterpreting culture in my own way. Plus it feels like paying homage to the women before who worked with beads. It’s really labour intensive so I sympathize and appreciate it but more so respect their dedication to the craft as I use it in mine.


Q: Tell us about the high-fashion aspect, why did you go in that direction?
A: …Because the girlies are up…(laughs) I’m kidding, but no seriously, because I love luxury and associate it with blackness. I mean I’m intentionally dressing my subjects in designer brands and still do also want to incorporate local designers because we as black people set the trends, but globally black girls are the IT girls and we need to bring more black women into the conversation, I mean we’ve heard the saying “it’s ghetto till vogue covers it” and I’m digging into that because black women are the reference and I’m communicating that., that’s why I’m doing it. That’s why my subjects might be wearing Gucci shades or wearing a chanel piece, we embody richness in many ways.

Q: What kind of impact do you want your art to have?
A: So…I had showcased once at Wits art museum, (she shows us a photo from her phone of two young women staring at her art through the glass window). So I showed down there, and they one of my lecturers saw these girls staring at my art and captured this picture of them shook, and yeah that made me realize I want black girls to look at my art and those of other black artists and connect to it. I feel like I’m only discovering that now I want us to be so used to seeing black people proudly, to celebrate blackness proudly and be comfortable in our skin, I want us to know that from a young age. 

Q: Okay last question, where do you want your art to take you?
A: Everywhere, from the moon, to mars, I want it to take me everywhere, for my art to reveal experiences and just connect me to the right communities and moments and even more interests. I know art is limitless and I want to explore that.

We’re delighted and excited to see where Sichumile’s journey takes her how she developes and crafts her identity and voice as a visual artist, born in KZN, and bred in Joburg.

IG: sichumileadam /

Stay powerful, stay blessed, stay BROKE.