Conversation with Haneek.s

Highly talented illustrator widening representation of African women

22090176_1976631852572467_3586024213947562646_nHaneek’s work is not only extremely gorgeous it is also meaningful and purposeful. The power of her illustrations goes beyond its aesthetics.Images are a conveyor of power, they influence perceptions, including self-perceptions. In this sense, her art is inspiring for it creates space for women who are too often under or misrepresented in illustrations and challenges the notion of beauty.

Her creative work is stunning, what strikes me most is the softness and natural beauty of the faces she portrays. I find her art empowering as it diversifies the way African women and men are portrayed in our culture and magnifies their beauty. I also believe that her work carve space in our mind, our environment and our culture for the women she portrays.

Haneek offers a selection of everyday items from her drawings inspired by African culture. Her talent, her hard work and her authenticity are some of the few things that moved me about Haneek. There is no wonder why the items she sells has already gathered great attention.

Moreover, she also illustrates books and has illustrated a colouring book in an attempt to provide diversified identity models too absent from the lives of children. We discussed her illustrations, the meaning of her work, pursuing diverse creative projects and of course how travelling contributed to giving her work a deeper dimension. Make sure to support her art! Check out her online store, follow her work on Facebook and on her blog.

Your illustrations stand for characters with brown skin. I love it because I see something I am not accustomed to, representations of me in illustrations. Is this approach a conscious decision?

©Brigitte Sombié

We could say so, and there is no doubt that it makes my work extremely enjoyable and purposeful. We are usually not used to see diverse representations through our daily life. Therefore, as an illustrator, this approach is extremely rewarding. I must start from scratch, I get to freely create, draw and represent the women I have been surrounded by all my life. It is about widening representation, documenting stories, and connecting people.   It is an enriching experience to take a less taken road, to have a project which focuses on representation. I must deal with few representations that exist and try to conceive interesting and memorable images from my personal experience.

When I was a young girl I realised that there weren’t that much Black icons in my books and magazines. I guess it made me feel too different, as if my experience did not have its value and this played a role on my self-esteem. This work makes me freer and it is empowering to me, I get to put into place what was missed from my youth and I know that I am on purpose.

 Yet, to me this approach is not a political statement, it is much simpler than that. I am just drawing from my personal perspective. Those representations are in fact nothing more than a representation of me, my family and some of my friends. Drawing Black characters is simply a way for me to give a space for my identity in my work. Nothing more, nothing less.

My work has helped me be more aware and confident in myself but I would definitely add that it helped me share my story with different kind of person, from different background. It has helped me bridge my experiences with others, connect with different people and this has been a great experience!

What role does drawing play in your life?

21272386_1963575280544791_7688290408520441794_nDrawing gives me an invisible shield that protects me from noise, stress, pain and anxiety. Drawing is more than a work, it is all about self-care, it is kind of a therapy It’s a secret land where it’s quiet and relaxing. I have always loved it since I was a child.

I am fortunate to have this activity which for me is very close to meditation. I guess we all need to find what it is for us, what is that thing that makes us stay grounded and relaxed. Drawing is a great precious time to pick up all the pieces of myself and make a representation out of it. In a few word: drawing is plain joy!

Tell me more about your experience working for yourself and engaging on different creative projects. What would be your main advice to someone willing to embark on this road?

15073373_1824526387783015_449204160709828429_nI am not completely working freelance as I have a regular job on the side. But I do a lot of freelance activities! I absolutely love it, being part of all those different things is a great opportunity to do what I truly love, what I absolutely believe in and to push further my potential.

However, it is necessary to keep an eye on the priorities, to stay organised and focus.  When you are the one who leads, when you do not have a boss behind you reminding you of your priorities.  It is easy to waste time, to take it slow then found out that you have a mountain of emails to answer or many tasks left to perform. Furthermore, it can be scary sometimes to take big decisions on your own but I think overall, it’s a rewarding experience that can be dramatically fulfilling! You get to quickly develop plenty of skills and to expand your horizons.

 Financially speaking, I think it’s more secure to keep a regular job for a few time, to keep learning, experimenting, sharing, growing, and when things start being more settled and stable, then only, consider flying on your own.

When it comes to having an audience, I have to say that it’s better to forget about it! The best thing is to keep doing what you love, to focus on your artwork, to keep creating something you are proud of, something that is a representation of you. In the end, it makes no doubt that patience, love and passion make it all. At last with time everything will come gradually.

Can you tell me about your most memorable travel experience and how it played an important role in your life?

I love travelling! If I could, I would be away most of my spare time. It is inspiring and it is a great source of creative inspiration to discover different cultures, landscapes and architectures.

15036379_1823518831217104_6945509690456449415_nMy most memorable travel experience was in Senegal.  I went to Senegal once, it was amazing and absolutely refreshing! The environment, the people I met, the art, the culture, the history, the mentality everything amazed me, it made me feel more alive and connected. I was stunned because, the reality over there was so different from what I know yet so relatable. I left feeling more knowledgeable and aware.

It brought me to a different universe, so warm and powerful. When I came back from this trip I felt like I needed to paint and draw everything that moved me; masks, plants, patterns. Travelling is one of the things that makes me feel particularly alive and overwhelmed to be part of this world!

© Haneek.s