A Valentine’s day portrait commissioned in 2015 for the princely sum of R50 was the first piece of art sold by a group of intrepid, self-taught artists at UKZN. AyoNotic Artistry has come a long way since then – celebrities including Cassper Nyovest; Expresso Show’s Zoë Brown and South African rapper Rikhado “Riky Rick” Makhado have commissioned works of art and their paintings grace the walls at the University.

The artists, who have created impromptu studios out of their rooms at UKZN Residences, include 21-year-old BSC Computer Engineering student Cebelihle Njabulo Mbatha; BSC Applied Chemistry student Ayanda Matomane; Computer Science student Sinothi Mbambo; and Siphelele Mkhwanazi, who is doing his BCom Accounting.

AyoNotic Artistry honed their skills by watching YouTube videos; and are grateful for their God-given talent. ‘We didn’t discover that we were artistic, we were born artistic. We were all talented, a gift from the universe which we’ve collaborated on,’ said Mbatha.

While they love producing art, their talent also pays the bills and their “varsity fees”. ‘We learnt to think beyond our imagination when we saw students dropping out because of funds and decided to make a living using whatever talents we have,’ said Mbatha.

Friends since they attended Brookdale High School in Phoenix, they all play different roles in the company ranging from production to finance and human resources. ‘Starting a business together was not a difficult thing to do because we already knew one another’s strengths and weaknesses,’ he said.

The artists used social media to parlay a favour for a friend into a successful company. ‘When we saw that people liked the Valentine’s day portrait we drew for a friend, we decided to advertise ourselves so that people can know about us. Luckily we had social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instragram to facilitate our mission, we simply use what we have,’ said Mbatha.

Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso, AyoNotic Artistry works in a variety of mediums, ranging from pencil and ink sketches, paintings and charcoal drawings.

Their favourite piece art that they have produced is titled “Piece of Africa”. ‘This was our own way of appreciating our own continent, its people and our own culture and the colour of our skin. We wished that we could all be united and stop all the xenophobic attacks happening in South Africa, because at the end of the day we come from one continent and we don’t know when we might need each other.’

UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld is a fan of their work. Their art has also recently been installed in the office of UKZN’s Executive Director of Institutional and Regional Planning, Dr Duma Malaza.

If you would like to own a piece of original South African art, born and bred at UKZN … look them up on Facebook (AyoNotic Artistry) and Instagram (@ayonotic_artistry) or contact them via ayonotic@gmail.com or 074 331 2958.

They’d also like to encourage any artists at the University and further afield to collaborate with them.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photographs: AyoNotic Artistry