Illustrations for a series of pocket squares produced by R. Culturi. The pocket square being such a men’s accessory, my idea was to design some prints I’ve been meaning to work on for quite a while now - a series of illustrations of strong women coming from a tough background, and doing things that are or used to be mostly associated with men - riding a scooter, playing the electric guitar, skateboarding, basketball, etc.
THE GUITARIST - The first piece is an illustration of an African woman playing the electric guitar, for the simple reason that you really don’t see many black women guitarists, not because of a lack of black women guitarists, but probably because they’re not so appealing to mainstream music, or they’re hard to fit in a stereotype. The first that pops into mind is Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who is one of the precursors of rock and roll, but also awesome guitarists like Lady Bo ( sometimes called “Queen Mother of Guitar”) - Bo Diddley’s lead guitarist; Odetta, who influenced folk singers like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, and was often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”; Elizabeth Cotten, who developed a unique style of playing the guitar, as she was left-handed, and even a unique style of fingerpicking, the “Cotten picking”.
THE BIKER - For the second illustration I was inspired by Hassan Hajjaj’s series of photos, “Kesh Angels”, about the female bike culture of Marrakesh. Last year I painted a mural in Rabat, Morocco, and I was doing some research about Moroccan culture and imagery, and one of the best things I came upon was Hajjaj’s work, so I’ve been meaning to do my own rendition of a badass woman on a scooter wearing a colorful abaya and niqab, and Nikes.
THE SKATER - For the third one I was inspired by the culture of women skateboarders in India, and by Wild Beasts’ video, Alpha Female, featuring female skateboarders from Bengaluru. One of the skaters featured in the video, Atita Verghese, India’s most prominent female skateboarder, has launched the Girl Skate India initiative, teaching girls how to skate, promoting gender equality and values of self-empowerment through skating.
I'm planning to keep this series open, as an ongoing series of illustrations of powerful women.