The UJ Art Gallery in partnership with Rainbow Nation Comics and Afro Geek proudly present African Hero

The UJ Art Gallery in partnership with Rainbow Nation Comics and Afro Geek proudly present African Hero. Opening at the UJ Art Gallery on 8 June, African Hero runs until 12 July 2024. This exhibition aims to Africanise the superhero aesthetic for local audiences, highlighting unique storytelling rooted in African values. 

Historically the portrayal of African characters in mainstream media and popular culture has been fraught with stereotypes and misrepresentations. This exhibition aims to focus on African heroes reclaiming narratives of African agency, challenging colonial legacies, and affirming the importance of self-representation.  

The Rainbow Nation Comics duo: Phemelo Dibodu and Omphile Dibodu, in their African Pop style, demonstrate that the Rainbow Nation is alive and vibrant. They seek to convey a distinctly African approach to storytelling, rooted in their values, principles, morals, and ethics, such as Ubuntu. Their goal is to awaken the dormant spirit of patriotism in South Africa, reminiscent of the days of Nelson Mandela and his contemporaries. 

Additionally, they emphasise the relationship between technology and art by collaborating with UJ Multimedia students to produce a 1-minute comic book trailer featuring the main hero in their comics, Young Nelson. Through this medium they have created a platform where diverse voices can unite, reminding us of our connection to the Rainbow Nation. Young Nelson symbolises the youth of South Africa grappling with the modern-day challenges confronting the nation. He is a reminder that they are ambitious, resilient, tenacious, fearless, and embody a spirit of unwavering determination. 

Afro Geek, established by Tapelo Zama and Neo Mothoagae, is a vibrant community dedicated to diversity and empowerment in the entertainment industry. They provide a welcome platform for underrepresented individuals, particularly within the black community, to shine and share their creative talents. Afro Geek is dedicated to spotlighting African creators, in this case, Bill Masuku and Trevor Ngwenya. With a focus on African storytelling, Afro Geek showcases diverse experiences and perspectives from the continent and its diaspora, ensuring each piece resonates culturally.  

Inspired by Roy Liechtenstein’s works and Virgil Abloh’s philosophy of viewing T-shirts as art, the exhibition will showcase mixed media pieces, including digital art prints and printed graphic T-shirt designs. Also on offer will be physical comic books and original music, exploring modern heroism, particularly within the African context. 

UJ Art Gallery is calling all adventurers, heroes, and creatures of fantasy to immerse themselves in a world of creativity and imagination at the upcoming African Hero exhibition opening. We invite you to Cosplay, short for “costume play,” which is the art of dressing up as characters from movies, TV shows, video games, comics, and more. It is a celebration of fandom, where enthusiasts embody their favourite characters with intricate costumes, detailed props, and boundless enthusiasm. 

Whether you are a seasoned cosplayer or simply curious about this vibrant subculture, come mingle with fellow enthusiasts, marvel at stunning costumes, and share your passion for all things fantastical. Don your most spectacular attire and prepare to embark on a journey into the realms of imagination. 

Join us for an unforgettable, all-ages experience filled with creativity and fun. Explore captivating artworks and enjoy a variety of exciting activities, including a jumping castle, superhero face painting, comic book merchandise stalls, and card game battles. Unleash your inner artist at our colouring stations or transform into your favourite character at the cosplay photobooth. Indulge in delicious treats, including freshly popped popcorn and refreshing slushies.  

Be part of a journey of discovery, celebrating past, present, and future heroes. In the tapestry of African storytelling, every voice is a thread, and every hero is a beacon of hope. Don’t miss this enchanting celebration of art and creativity! 

About UJ Arts & Culture  

UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA) produces and presents world-class student and professional arts programmes aligned to the UJ vision of an international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future. A robust range of arts platforms are offered on all four UJ campuses for students, staff, alumni, and the general public to experience and engage with emerging and established Pan-African and international artists drawn from the full spectrum of the arts.  

In addition to UJ Arts & Culture, FADA ( offers programmes in eight creative disciplines, in Art, Design and Architecture, as well as playing home to the NRF SARChI Chair in South African Art & Visual Culture, and the Visual Identities in Art & Design Research Centre. The faculty has a strong focus on sustainability and relevance, and engages actively with the dynamism, creativity, and diversity of Johannesburg in imagining new approaches to art and design education.  

About UJ Art Gallery  

Nestled at the heart of the University of Johannesburg’s Auckland Park Kingsway Campus, the UJ Art Gallery has been a dynamic platform for showcasing emerging and established artists for over three decades. With a mission centred on promoting artistic expression, fostering critical engagement with contemporary art, and nurturing Johannesburg’s arts ecosystem, the gallery’s permanent collection of over 2,000 diverse artworks reflects South African vibrancy. Through curated exhibitions, educational programs, and public events, the UJ Art gallery cultivates a space for dialogue, reflection, and inspiration.  

Gallery hours: Mon–Fri: 09:00 – 16:00
Closed weekends and public holidays  

Location: APK Campus, Corner of Kingsway Ave/University Rd, Auckland Park
Contact:  011 559 2556 


About Phemelo Dibodu 

Phemelo Dibodu, a University of Johannesburg graduate with a diploma in Public Relations, is an interdisciplinary artist, comic book creator, urban poet, published author, and entrepreneur. After his studies in 2014, he worked in sales and marketing across various industries until 2018 when he founded Rainbow Nation Comics, Africa’s first dedicated publisher of original African comic books. Alongside his brother, he created the flagship character Young Nelson, inspired by Nelson Mandela’s life. 

Phemelo has exhibited at ComicCon Africa in 2019, 2021, and 2022, with his comics selling out in record time. He has also spoken at Cannex 2021, representing South Africa in discussions on the future of animation in Africa. Collaborating with his brother and others, he contributed to the SuperMash children’s comic book for the Nickelodeon Mandela Day Let Us Read Campaign, promoting literacy among South African youth. 

Phemelo conducts creative workshops and motivational talks, urging young South Africans to apply Mandela’s principles to modern challenges. His vision for Rainbow Nation Comics is to compete globally, producing authentic African fantasy and superhero content with socially conscious messages, inspiring pride, and confidence in African identity. 

About Omphile Dibodu 

Omphile Dibodu, a BCom Honours in Marketing Management graduate from the University of Johannesburg, is the Co-Founder of Rainbow Nation Comics and Co-Creator of the Young Nelson comic book series. He is also a versatile artist spanning performance, visual, and digital mediums. 

After completing his studies in 2018, Omphile gained diverse marketing experience with established, startup, and rebranded brands. Teaming up with his older brother, Phemelo, a published author and songwriter, Omphile brought Rainbow Nation Comics to life with the Young Nelson superhero series.  

Additionally, he collaborated with young creative Prince Mashawana on the SuperMash children’s comic book, addressing bullying for the Nickelodeon Mandela Day Let Us Read Campaign, promoting youth literacy in South Africa. 

About Afro Geek  

Established by Tapelo Zama and Neo Mothoagae, Afro Geek is a vibrant community dedicated to celebrating diversity and empowerment in the entertainment industry. We provide a welcoming platform for underrepresented individuals, particularly within the black community, to shine and share their creative talents. We are on a mission to reshape the geek culture landscape. Afro Geek empowers individuals, fosters inclusivity, and champions creativity in all its forms. 

About Bill Masuku 

Bill Masuku Featured in Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 in 2022, Bill Masuku is an award-winning Zimbabwean comic book artist and writer of such works as Razor Man, Captain South Africa, and Tokoloshe Hunters. Beyond working as an editor for Kenyan comic studio Kugali, Masuku also worked as a storyboard artist for Disney x Kugali’s animated series, Iwaju.  

About Trevor Ngwenya 

Trevor Ngwenya, known to many of his fans as Kubo Art, grew up in Hammanskraal, Gauteng. As a youngster, Trevor found himself enjoying the pulp fantasy of the 80’s which prompted him to pursue his own Afrocentric take on the genre. His unique quasi-retro African fantasy aesthetic is instantly recognizable, and his artworks have become renowned across the globe. His most well-known character, Shakar, is a fictional character inspired by Shaka Zulu that exists in a fantastical world based on various pre-colonial African civilizations.