Arts View

  • Opens in a new tab
  • Opens in a new tab
  • Opens in a new tab
  • Opens in a new tab
  • Opens in a new tab

Jun 2022 – Aug 2022

Nkululeko Buthelezi

Nkululeko Buthelezi – 3D Visual Artist

Johannesburg, South Africa

Nkululeko Buthelezi, aka Kulubakka is a 3D visual artist from Johannesburg, South Africa. He has always been artistic by nature. Earlier in life he was most captivated by movies so a natural starting point was acting but after a couple of drama lessons he quickly learned that he would rather be back stage instead of in front of the lens, and this led to him taking up animation.

He got involved in art classes at high-school and never looked back. He has worked for many companies over the years, applying artistic influences to communicate with clients and audiences; from graphic design to 3d Animation, he has been involved in many forms of
visual communications but at the end of the day he is most at home with 3d animation and that is the medium he chose to focus his efforts on even before the end of his college days.

AGN; How old were you when you decided 3D animation would be your main focus and how did you arrive at such a conclusion?

NB; I was around 15 years old when I decided 3D animation would be the way to go. I was heavily into video games and that is what led me in this direction.

AGN; How developed was 3D animation in South Africa when you started out and what were the main challenges you faced?

NB; It wasn’t developed at all back then in 2007. Schools that did offer any form of tuition were unaffordable for me. The entry point for me was graphic design and multimedia as it was more affordable and accessible. Back then, tutorials on YouTube and other social media resources weren’t readily available too so one had to do a lot of the heavy lifting alone.

AGN; In comparison to when you started out what have been the main changes within your field and what pivotal change or resource would you like to see introduced that would enable things to develop much further?

NB; The main change is in skills development. Entry level skills are much higher than they were in 2007. This has positively impacted the quality of work that is being produced locally. The advent of modern technology has also had a considerable impact. We are almost at a stage where we can compete more easily internationally.

I would like accessibility to be improved upon. Many people here are unaware of how accessible 3D design can be. When I show people what I do they seem blown away, as if what I do is rocket science and assume it must be difficult to get into, whereas that is not now so.

AGN; Who are your arts and design influences?

NB; One of my main influences is a company rather than an individual. When I was growing up there was a company called Square Soft (now called Square Enix) whose output blew me away. The work of one of their designers ‘Hironobu Sakaguchi ‘ was simply awesome.

Steven Shmuely was also someone I found inspiring as was the work of Neil Blomkamp Locally, my colleagues have been a driving force, we would coach and encourage each other to improve and develop our skills.

AGN; Would you say not having a degree has made it harder to obtain work?

NB; Most definitely. I have walked into interviews where people have been immediately dismissive
due to me not having a certificate. However, I have stuck to the words of my former tutor who told me it is one’s capability and capacity that are most important. The strength of one’s portfolio will open doors. This is why I have an easily accessible portfolio. Those with more open minds can easily see what I
am capable of. I Simply have a smaller pool of people who will consider reviewing what I do. Therein lies the greater challenge.

AGN; What would you say is the biggest misconception people in South Africa have about 3D animation?

NB; Some people seem to assume it is childish and that it is not possible to earn a good living from it. Others also feel it is something anybody can do, however, in reality that is not the case. Anybody can’t draw, design or easily use many of the tools and programs to a high standard.

AGN; What do you do to help develop your community and do you feel 3D design can have a direct impact in helping to improve socio-economic outcomes within it?

NB; I participate in Facebook groups and other fora, sharing knowledge and signposting emerging designers to suitable resources. I have produced tutorials/walkthroughs that I share with newcomers who request guidance.


AGN; Do you have an unfulfilled ambition you are striving to achieve in future?

NB; Greater stability within the field. I still struggle to make my way. I would love to be head-hunted and I feel this is not happening because I haven’t yet achieved a high enough profile.

AGN; How supportive were your family and friends when you first started pursuing a career in 3D design and who did you turn to when things got really tough?

NB; Everyone in my family was quite supportive especially my mother. She bought me my first computer when I finished high-school. Even though I didn’t obtain a degree they were still supportive of me fulfilling my ambition to become a 3D designer.

AGN; What was family life like for you when you were growing up?

NB; It was quite tough in some ways as my parents separated when I was young. That obviously has an adverse impact on the children and it is something I felt while growing up. Nevertheless, one has to make the best of things and that is what I resolved to do.

AGN; How do you like to spend your free time?

NB; I like to spend time with my partner, socialize with my friends, watch movies or listen to music.

AGN; Are there any closing remarks you would like to make.

NB; I feel 3D design is very much overshadowed by the likes of Pixar. What the big boys/girls do very much shapes peoples opinion of 3D design, but actually it is a medium that can be used for many forms of visual representation. It is good to see it is being used more widely and I do hope that in time the general public will gain a wider appreciation for it as they do other mediums.

Previous ‘Arts View’ interviews are available here; archive

© 2022 All rights reserved - Ri Iyovwaye on behalf of African Global Networks (AGN) - Jun 2022