Zimbabwean graphic designer Osmond Tshuma developed a passion for typography, while studying at the University of Johannesburg. He then went on to use his passion as a tool to comment on southern Africa’s history and is best known for his creation of the ‘Colonial Bastard Rhodes’ typeface. According to Behance, the easily legible, post-modern heading font is a post-colonial critique of both Cecil John Rhodes and the impact of Colonialism in South Africa and is based on identifying certain key characteristics of fonts and typography used during the colonial era.
Speaking to Lets be brief and People’s Stories Project on why he created the typeface Tshuma said:
“I was writing my paper on post-colonialism in contemporary Southern African advertising; then I thought of linking this to my practical module. The idea was to create a typeface that echoed the characteristics of Cecil John Rhodes: a wealthy, power-hungry imperialist. So, the font was a social critic of him and colonialism in southern Africa”.
While reflecting on the process of creating the font, he relied on the colonial stereotypes, and advertising material of the era saying, “Africans were often shown as “savages and unclean”. I chose to use the typeface from the ‘White Man’s Burden’ Pears Soap advertisement, which looked like Bodoni font”.
On the bold title Tshuma was adamant that to him it had nothing to do with humour or satire. The title was to be taken quite literally as it was his way of, “Expressing my frustration at how these colonial figures are still being celebrated today. Colonialism was an act of brutality clothed in the farce of civilisation. Families were displaced, enslaved, massacred, wealth stolen and yet the names of these perpetrators are mounted on street names and buildings”.
Resolutely adding, “I guess it was meant to provoke a visceral response towards the images and history of Cecil John Rhodes”.
“It’s always my hope to show the beauty and richness of Africa, one design at a time.”
— The Obama Foundation (@ObamaFoundation) July 31, 2019
It wasn’t long before the graphic designer moved on to advertising. Some of his most notable ad campaigns include: “Soweto Gold ’76” a collaboration project between Jameson Irish Whiskey and Soweto Gold Beer. The beer was created to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Soweto Youth Uprising. Each one has been personally branded by a veteran of June 16th, 1976 – someone who was there, back in the day.
Tshuma was also involved in the rebranding of IKwekwezi FM – an Ndebele radio station. The project won both the Loeries and Pendoring Awards. Reminiscing over the rebrands success he said, “The engagement was amazing. People debated about it. Most of the station’s listeners loved the design because they could see their tradition and culture being represented through it. For the first time in my life, I saw what an impact design could have…” adding that it showed him, “brands are more than just the logo. They are an embodiment of the people”.
The creative has gone on to curate the visual language for the Obama Foundation Africa Leaders program for 2018 and 2019; from the program logo, to the swag and to the banners on the walls throughout the space.
Talking to the Foundation about how he went about the design Tshuma said, “The original concept for the program logo was the protea flower—a flower native to South Africa. After rounds of feedback, I needed to find something more pan-African, and that’s when the Zulu and Xhosa necklace emerged. That necklace is really a symbol of leadership that can be recognised as one of the most iconic necklaces in South African culture”.
More specifically, he drew inspiration from women and mothers who, “are the first leaders children see. When you’re growing up, mothers are really the anchor for youth—they’re the first person you have to look to as a guide and protector. That combined with the welcoming nature of round shapes led me to pick that symbol for the logo”.
For the Leaders: Africa 2018 program Tshuma even designed the quote, “We are the ones we have been waiting for”.
The patterns throughout the rest of the space were influenced by various Zulu patterns, Ndebele mural art, Adinkra, Kente and Kuba cloth designs, Shona wooden art, and other African artifacts.
For the 2019 event, he created a newer version of the original for a cohesive effect by inverting the existing pattern and added an additional layer of colored shapes.
Tshuma’s journey so far has been an inspiration for African typographers and graphic designers and the artists hopes for the future reflect that.
“My greatest hope for the future is that the design company I co-founded, Mam’gobozi Design Factory, continues to grow and becomes the best design agency in Africa, and even in the world. But for now, I’m trying to spend more time on design rather than advertising. I’ve been invested in finishing my African-inspired alphabet series, which I have featured on my Instagram page”.
“I hope the world knows that in all of my projects and in all of my work, I’m trying to lift up the beauty of African design by showing it in new, innovative ways. There is so much inspiration on this continent, and who knows if I’m doing it right, but it’s always my hope to show the beauty and richness of Africa, one design at a time.”