The futuristic, afro-indie, afro-punk artwork of Afar
Your journey is very interesting : born in Eritrea, raised in Germany and now living in the USA. How has this shaped who you are and your art?
At home we lived as Eritreans. Outside, we were immersed in German culture. Besides going to German school, we also went to Eritrean school in the weekend, in order not to forget about our culture and language. So I grew up learning about both cultures and feel very at ease in both. And yet I knew very early that we were only guests in that country – Germany. My parents used to tell us that we would go back to Eritrea one day, once we had finished school and the war in Eritrea was over. Unfortunately the circumstances back home never really improved so my family ended up staying in Germany.
My art is very much influenced by Africa and Europe. Most of my artwork combines the past and the future. You can see typical African art like face painting or traditional clothing, mixed with people with a futuristic look.
What does your African family think of your work as an artist? Are they supportive?
I´ve been doing creative work for quite a long time. My family is very supportive and gives me good feedback. Even more so that my work is now focused on Africa. One of my brothers who lives in London is helping me sell artwork and shirts in London.
Do you know/follow the East African art scene?
I wouldn’t say I follow it but I am very curious about the art there ; I try to see and read about it as much as I can. I’ve also just started following African artists. I would love to collaborate with African street artists to promote them with my brand, to show the world the creativity that lives in Africa. When the time is right, I want to do art shows and exhibitions in different cities around the globe with different African artists. I believe that creativity is one of the best things about Africa and black people in general. I want to share that creativity with the globe. That´s why I do what I´m doing.
Afar is your artist name and also that of your clothing label. What does it mean?
It means different things:
- Afar is one of the oldest tribes of East Africa. They are an ethnic group that lives in the horn of Africa. They primarily live in the afar region of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti
- Africa seems so far away, so disconnected from the rest of the world. It feels like something from afar.
- It stands for AFricanARt.
Afar (African-art), represents everything which comes or is influenced by African people around the world. My vision is to create a label who exports the creativity of Africans. Starting with a clothing line, to exhibitions, African fast food stores. Collaborate with musicians. And so on…whatever my energy allows me to do.
How did you get started as an illustrator / graphic designer? Are you self-taught or did you acquire your skills through formal training?
As a young boy I followed Black American culture a lot and started doing graffiti art when I was 16. A year after that I became a DJ and was playing in different clubs in Germany. So I’ve always been creative. I studied study graphic design at university and after graduation, I started working as a graphic designer while still doing graffiti art and DJ gigs here and there.
You seem to be using black and white a lot in your illustrations. What is it about that colour combination that inspires you?
I chose to work in black and white because I wanted to focus on Black people. I want to make sure people understand that my art and vision is focused on Africans and the diaspora. It’s what I’m doing right now but it might change in the future.
On the other hand, I rarely see African art using black and white. Their art is usually very colorful. That’s also very nice but I just wanted to create a different look. More afro-indie, afro-punk style.
Can you tell us a bit more about your illustration: Prophet. What’s the story behind it?
My illustrations can be seen as African fantasy/science-fiction. This is how I imagine an African prophet would look like in the future: wearing traditional African clothes and riding a zebra. Zebras are impossible to ride because they are proud animals. Only a prophet or messiah would be able to do it.
What would like people to feel when they look at your art?
I hope they feel proud, connected, understood, embraced and powerful. I would like Africans from the continent and the diaspora to feel special and connected to one another, wherever they are.