As BAME creatives in London and around the world continue to face barriers that are not shared by their white peers, these same creatives have had to develop what Matthew Walsham of Partnership for Young London describes as a “resilience and fortitude in their own careers.”
One example of this is the emergence of the #DrawingWhileBlack tag on Twitter, a hashtag which has existed for a number of years and “comes back” every now and then with a fresh wave of talent. The tag creates a network in which Black artists can share their work, discuss their experience of working as artists and celebrate their identities.
The tag was started by Ghanaian American animator and illustrator Abelle Hayford (@abellehayford) in 2017, and has grown from a hashtag aiming to celebrate artists for a weekend into a vast database with its own directory and twitter account. Although the tag was started in the US, it is used by Black artists all over the world to celebrate the creativity and artistry that is so often overlooked by western creative industries.
Artists who share their work in the #DrawingWhileBlack tag work in a vast range of mediums from biros to charcoal, pencil sketches to digital paintings. Styles range from photorealistic artists like Kalejaye O. Tosin to abstract and anime-style digital artists like Aisosa Ugiagbe. Artists are invited to participate at any stage in their careers, so the tag presents a brilliant combination of established professionals, hobbyists and emerging artists. The overall quality of the artwork presented is exceedingly high, as the artists we spoke to for this article demonstrate.
#DrawingWhileBlack Featured Artists
Kalejaye O. Tosin
Kalejaye O. Tosin is a self-taught artist from Ondo State, Nigeria whose work is largely based on photo-realism, working mostly with graphite and charcoal pencils. Kalejaye started drawing in 2016 as a postgraduate student of History with a goal of interpreting life events and occurrences as art.
“My art revolves around my society (black communities) and the happenings inherent. My intention in practicing Art is to communicate my thoughts and ideas, portraying the struggles and experiences of Man as a product of Society. These numerous and multifaceted struggles in life are the factors that inspire me to create my artworks. Through my style of art, I intend to arouse emotion in my viewer, the necessary catalyst to encourage a shift in the nature of ongoing conversations towards more practical actions. In sum, awakening the consciousness of the audience.”
Aisosa Ugiagbe is a Nigerian-British illustrator and music producer from South-east London. Born in the early 90s with a deep passion for Anime, Cartoons, Video games and Grime music, Aisosa has been recently featured twice in an art exhibition held in Japan, and has released a multitude of EPs.
“My work consists of various original character designs in an array of bright colours and is heavily inspired by Anime/Manga, games and music that I’m into (namely UK Grime).
“Readers could support by checking out the things that I’m involved with via http://pyrokidsosa.carrd.co, following me on social media, and checking out my current comic “My Girlfriend is a Dakimakura!?” on Webtoons and Tapas. (Also, via Ko-Fi if you’re really generous!)”
Jessica (aka saturnine stardust) is a largely self-taught artist and creates art in her spare time, as a personal passion. As her day job, she is a professional working at the nexus of entertainment, business and law, and technology. She donates a portion of all proceeds generated from her art to various charitable or non-profit organizations, with a focus on civil rights and the arts. You can find her work at http://saturnine-stardust.com; you can also find her at @art_of_stardust on Twitter and @saturnine.stardust on Instagram.
Rudi Okasili-Henry is a comic artist and occasional storyboard artist based in London. He’s currently working on a comic called Raina, which follows a young blind woman who is fighting to contain her own power.
“The thing I have always wanted to achieve is to become an artist my younger self would be inspired by, I always imagine a younger self looking forward to where an I am now and hope to make myself proud. As art has always been my form of self care and expression.”
Amanda Quartey is a London illustrator, originally from Ghana. She studied Art and Graphic Design in college before changing course to study Classics at university. Amanda’s illustration style is stylised, colourful and consists of both line and lineless art – the latter of which is best suited for editorial or children’s book illustration.
“The #DrawingWhileBlack hashtag has undoubtedly helped me to launch my professional career as an illustrator and also helped me to raise funds for my #BLM print fundraiser.
“Shining a light on black artists was way past due and I hope that with the help of this hashtag and many others, black talent will no longer go unnoticed.”
Article by Toby Buckley.
To see more artwork created in connection to #DrawingWhileBlack search for the # on Twitter and Instagram.