Squid Alley with Sonwabo “Sonik” Valashiya

SONWABO Sonik VALASHIYA describes himself as an “emerging creative with BIG dreams and awesome ideas for this industry” in a feature on him for Conté Magazine. (Check them out, pretty awesome stuff). Sonwabo is an illustrator and graphic designer from Pretoria, South Africa. He has an uncanny talent for fusing calm hues, grit and pop culture that leaves you gasping for air and ready to re-imagine present realities. And oh, he might have a thing for guns.

Let’s shoot. 

Omo Soldier-01.jpg

What are your go-to tools?


I usually go straight the traditional way, to pencil and paper but Adobe Illustrator is also my go to tool for putting down some ideas.

What inspires you?


African Aesthetics and Popular Culture, I look more into the beauty we have in Africa, our diverse cultures our fashion sense and our style in art and music is remarkable. Pop Culture has also been an influence for some time watching cartoons back in the day when I was a kid was the norm and just taking in the inspiration from fellow artists is also relevant for me.

What challenges do you face?


My challenge for some time now was to find my voice: horning my own style that is unique and that represents who I am was a bit difficult. Trying not to copy anyone’s style and just being relevant in the space of art and design is also a challenge.

What’s been your favourite and the most fun piece you’ve ever worked?


That is a tough one because for me I always want my last piece to be my best ever, but if I were to choose, I would say an illustration which I did for fun, named the Porcupine Queen, Its a portrait I took off the internet of a lady wearing a very extravagant ear piece that has porcupine thorns, it is very special because it is different and it was my first experience using the Wacom Intuos Draw Tablet to illustrate, which was awesome for me!

Who do you absolutely listen to when you work?


Its a combination of Neo Soul, Hip Hop, Jazz, RnB and House music. But to be specific I listen to a lot of Neo Soul. So Erykah Badu, SZA, Lauryn Hill and Yuna to name a few.

What do you do for fun?


I watch a lot of movies and I like reading inspiring books like The Secret, The Alchemist and Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I also spend most of my time just drawing and searching the net for inspiring art.

You have 24hrs in the Squid Time Tunnel to change something about your past. What would it be and why?


I wouldn’t change anything I think if I did that would be me living in regrets and I believe everything that happens is for a reason and the universe always has a way to harness you to the right path, so previous mistakes were meant to be lessons for you to move on more wiser and stronger!

What’s your hope for African comics, games and animation in the next 3 years?


I would like for the platform to be more open and established for more young talented artists. I would like to see more African stories being told on a global scale by Africans.

The TRIOmphant Bonus: Who are your top 3 African creatives across comics, games, animation, music, technology etc?


My best three illustrators so far are: Karabo “Poppy” MolestaneDavid “Slaying Goliath” Tshabalala and Sindiso Nyoni; these guys are the best!

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^^^TRIOmphants^^^

See more of his work on Behance | Instagram | Facebook |

Squirt Creativity!

Loved this interview? Check out the Squid Alley for even more conversations with various African creatives. 

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