Russell Abrahams: Meet The South African Illustrator Behind The Biggest Billboard In Africa

by Duke Magazine

Russell Abrahams, a Cape Town-born illustrator known as Yay Abe, has produced what is thought to be Africa’s largest billboard. The talented artist used his creativity to create the massive billboard in downtown Johannesburg. He told Between 10 and 5 that after losing his mother to the epidemic, his art has become a haven for him.

“The direct impact Covid has had on my personal life has made the last three months extremely challenging.” After losing my mother, I was thrust into a situation in which my career has proven to be my savior. My daily goal is to devote more time to crafting and painting.

“It was such a beautiful and collaborative process when Hollard approached me.” They’re truly wonderful people, and this endeavor is unquestionably my professional highlight. I will be eternally grateful and happy to have been a part of this.”

The Cape Town native, recognized for his intricate and bright illustrations, has always had a passion for sketching, which led him to study graphic design after high school. His first break came as one of Design Indaba’s young creatives in his third year of university, which opened doors for him in the Cape Town creative community and beyond.


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After working on numerous projects in and around South Africa, Abrahams established Yay Abe, an illustration company dedicated to providing a platform for artists of color. He has taken a special interest in painting murals, which he enjoys mostly because of the large-scale size and the freedom it provides in terms of what he can paint with, he explained.

“Recently, I’ve had a lot of fun painting murals.” I believe it’s the large-scale format that appeals to me. “I utilize a variety of mediums, including house paint, inks, and spray paint.”

The 28-year-old, who used to work under the identity Fatlip, a nickname from high school, recognized that things have changed since he began. Many creatives needed industry connections to secure jobs, but now, with the touch of a button, many people can share their works with the world, he said.

This, in turn, has provided opportunities for many artists whose work would otherwise be hidden away in their studios. “I’m seeing a lot of young folks taking the initiative to make the work that they want.” This, in turn, attracts the attention of large clients, allowing them to generate projects that would have taken the youngin’ much longer to complete.

“I guess social media’s power has come into play.” This is fantastic because it has given new designers access to people who were previously guarded by gatekeepers,” Abrahams told Sowetan Live.

Abrahams is noted for adding a dash of glitz to everything he touches, with his designs said to “bring the commonplace to life.” It makes no difference what kind of surface it is. Abrahams can work his magic on just about anything, as evidenced by his latest huge billboard. Abrahams, using Birchwood as his canvas and a blow torch as his paintbrush, created a flame-grilled work of art for the Big KingTM campaign in 2018, much to the delight of many.

“It was certainly the first time I had been requested to create flame art,” Abrahams stated at the time. “However, I’m continuously seeking new methods to improve my craft by experimenting with different techniques and materials.” It was wonderful to be able to try something new.”

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