Ouma, 23, Kenyan Artist, is fascinated by African women and the fashion industry, and often pieces together illustrations of African brands that inspire her. She became conscious of the need to tell stories of African women when she was in high school.
According to Ouma, She started illustrating brands from Africa because she struggled to find African illustrators telling stories about the fashion industry, she subconsciously picked up illustrating white people from reading magazines that didn’t represent people who looked like her. She would later decide to make a conscious effort to share stories of women who had the same skin color, and experiences similar to hers.
“I had this folder in high school where I used to keep some of my drawings. Most of my models had white complexions and I didn’t realize I was doing this until someone pointed it out,” she said.
Phoebe Ouma is using illustration to tell stories of African women
In 2019, she started publicly sharing stories and sketches of women from different parts of the continent, drawing inspiration from people and places she visits. In one of her illustrations, Ouma describes the women in Kericho, a town in Kenya famous for its tea farms, she is also fascinated by fashion from across the continent.
“During fashion weeks, you see illustrators from all over the world sharing stories through their work. And you see fashion houses getting their stories told. “But when we have our own fashion weeks, I feel like I cannot find enough content about it. People are not using illustrations,” she said..
In 2018, she recreated one of the designs from Cameroon-based fashion brand Maison D’Afie, citing the brand’s ability to connect with a much wider audience outside Africa as inspiration. Ouma says the dress references the stylish Sawa tribe from Cameroon’s coastal region, and its green colors reflect the rainforest around the area in which the tribe lives.
Ouma, who now illustrates full time, In the next few years, Ouma wants to be more present in Africa’s fashion industry, sketching for her favorite designers from across the continent.
“Eventually, I will get to designing clothes full time… but I want my illustrations to tell stories so I watch videos and read books about it so that I can become better,” she told CNN.
Culled from CNN