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Nawaal Illustrates the strength of black females in South Africa

Hi, so we're here with Sarah today. Nawaal Illustrations. Nice to meet you. We saw your work and it really resonated.

Thank you

She's all the way from South Africa, South Africa represent. So how did you get into art then, how did it all come about

Well I've been illustrating, well not illustrating, creating art my whole life really. I only started my Instagram page last year. At first I just did it for fun, something to pass the time with. Just post my work online and in the past year it grew a lot. Beginning a good business and now I'm even doing professionally which is great and really unexpected.

So it's something you're doing full time.

Yeah as of recent.

That's amazing.

Very recent, like the past two months or so I've started doing it full time like a business. Like I've had quite a bit of commission work, it's been taking up so much time. And with the whole corona virus lockdown, I haven't been going to work so I've had a lot of free time to create. And I've realised I can do this full time so now I've focused on that.

Really amazing. How have you actually been finding the corona situation?

It's actually been pretty good. For the past three months or so, or since it started the cases grew so much. Now I don't even check the news that often, just because the numbers have been so crazy. I thinks there's been like 100,000 cases or something like that. But with lockdown, we eased up the lockdown in the last 2 weeks or so, so things are opening up again like restaurants, companies. Not a great idea but it's got to be done

Yeah it's true, it's true. I feel like they're slowly easing it across the world. But I feel like every single country has their own way of dealing with it. But it's such a global phenomenon that it's happening everywhere. Yeah we can talk about your work as well. The reason I really liked your work was because I felt that it really was, you could feel your culture through it. Like it was evident that your were inclined by your background and things like that. Like the tones you use and the kind of style. And you said you were doing this since you were younger where have you taken inspiration from.

My inspiration is from everything, like everyday life. Well I lived in Africa my whole life and being a black girl, I do want to portray black women in all my illustrations because it's relatable to me, and a lot of girls. And I like to capture my girls doing really regular stuff. Like sitting, eating, getting a drink. Being around the house being super regular but I like fashion also so I try to incorporate some beauty. Also I try to stay relevant with whatever's going on. I think as artists it's important for our times.

Especially with everything that's going on at the moment. Like there's terrible things that are happening in America. And as you said your work is a reaction to that sometimes and is a reflection of what's going on. Right now, I know it's incredibly important to raise awareness for this kind of thing and use art in a way that is, to create progress isn't it and a way of showing your perspective. As a young black artist in South Africa, what's your perspective on these kind of things.

I mean, we don't live in America obviously we all pay so much attention to things that are happening globally. I've seen it on the news, black people getting killed by cops, it's so crazy, it's so disappointing because in 2020 it's still so surprising, it's still so relevant and we're still having the same kind of conversations. Racism is still relevant here in South Africa. I mean we still experience racism I guess it's not as out there as it is in America because there black people are a minority. Here we're a majority but still economically white people own everything. There's still systematic racism that we're trying to undo so it's different but it's quite the same. I think seeing all of that was going on in America, as an artist, it's kind of our job to showcase that, to reflect it and also stand in solidarity with African Americans and black people across the world.

So in South Africa, do you still face this kind of thing then because you talk about it in a system. So is it very much contained there or do you still experience outward happenings in your daily life. Because we know within South Africa especially there's always been a very large divide. And there's such a history that's going on that it's important to understand the roots of it.

Yeah, the history has been so recent. It only ended in like 94 so only like 20 years ago. So it feels so recent it's just not something we can overcome that easily. And the effects of apartheid are still fully evident you know. After it technically ended, most black people were left with nothing and white people fully still owned the resources in the country. So jobs for example. They were more likely to get jobs. Black people less employed. The education system is still super exclusive I mean there's such a big gap in the economy. And it's a racial gap you know, it's harder for people of colour to get ahead because they're not being given those opportunities. So it's our biggest issue at the moment in South Africa, China levelled the playing field between black and white people and it's really difficult because there's such inequality that had happened because of our past you know. That's the systematic racism that we deal with. Going for job applications for example, most of the companies are owned by white people. They more likely to get it than we are. And I watch a lot of clips from American social media and stuff; white people being more brave and coming up to you and making racial slurs. It's not like that here, it happens but less likely to as white people are the minority. I mean I also wanted to ask you how it was in the UK.

I think you face it everywhere and as you said it's a systematic thing in society. Personally because I've never experienced as you guys have but I would say it doesn't seem as aggressive as in America. Obviously I think the things that are going on are just terrible. With your work as well, what I saw within it was that your really took it back to your roots. Empowerment of black women was something you talk about. It's something you advocate for, through your work have you had people that resonated with what you were doing.

Yeah, I've gotten so much support from black women, all women. Because my work mostly represents unity. People coming together. And it's very diverse, all shades of black and I wanted people to come together and show their strength in numbers. I know this because I have a lot of sisters. There's 4 of us so I know how important it is to have that female friendship and sisterhood. So I just wanted to show that in my work and of course, empower black women.

That's a very big one isn't it. Four sisters

Yeah and one brother can you imagine.

You guys are protecting him at this point isn't it

Yeah he's the youngest so

That's nice that's nice. So you talk about making this your full time thing. This time has allowed you to have creative outlet and explore things as to what you want to do. So in the future what do you see with your work. Because I noticed you sell prints

I sell my prints through this thing called Society 6, I'm not sure if you're familiar with them but it's printed on demand. So I don't print or do shipping, they handle everything. Because living in South Africa sending things internationally would be such a hassle, I tried doing it at fast but it cost way too much money. So this is definitely the best situation.

I get you. So finally is there any advice you give to young girls that might look up to you. That see your work and find that it speaks to them.

My only advice, and it's going to sound like a cliche but it's keep going you know. I've been doing this for a long time and only recently I really feel like I found my place. It's like trial and error. It takes a long time to find your style of work, your niche. And also do something you're passionate about and not whatever you think is going to be popular. So if you're passionate about something, truly connected to it. You will shine. You will really get it right. It takes time and you got to be patient

A hundred percent, a hundred percent. And as you said it's about finding that diamond in the rough, shining and shining it until it come out

Yeah yeah and it's always about perfect timing as well. Perfect timing.

Definitely looking forward to what you might put out next and even watch how it develops and where it's going to take you. Thank you Sarah.


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