I’m Black and I’m Proud by Sâde Popoola

Day 1 — Poster posted on January 31, 2023

Sâde Popoola

Located: London, United Kingdom
Pronouns: she/her

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Sâde Popoola (aka Shadz), and I’m a 23-year-old, British-Nigerian illustrator based in London.

My passion for creating began as a child when I would draw my favourite animated characters or create my own. This grew into a love for portraiture, using minimalist styles, inspired by my love for pop art, and print-making processes.

Although the content of my work may differ, I aim to always produce something relatable for those who don’t often see themselves, their interests, or their struggles represented in art.

What is the inspiration behind your poster design?

Initially, I struggled to come up with an idea because ‘blackness’ is so subjective, and taking pride in one’s blackness can look very different for different people. After a while, however, I began looking at imagery that popped up when I searched for phrases like ‘black culture,’ ‘black and proud,’ or ‘black joy.’ A common thing was our hair; although it varies, it’s a powerful symbol of our blackness. It’s personal to each and every person whilst still being a shared experience. This inspired me to start looking at ways to merge/overlap portraits of black characters in a way that recognised their individuality whilst also portraying their shared pride in their hair. The afro is such an iconic hairstyle when we look back at figures in black history both in the UK and the USA and was, therefore, something I wanted to incorporate into the illustration.

Why do you love being creative?

As a visual thinker, it’s a blessing to be able to turn those thoughts into something tangible through creativity and to help others do the same thing. Art and design have always been something I’ve enjoyed doing because of the freedom and peace it can bring me; if I’m in the right mood, I can spend hours working on an illustration and feel fulfilled with how I use that time; for me; that’s joy.

Tell us about your experiences in the design world…

I’m still fairly new in the design world, but so far, it has been a great experience. I’ve learnt about the power of networking both inside and outside of your bubble and putting yourself out there, whether it be through competitions, callouts, or just sending your work to people you think would appreciate it. Another thing I’ve learnt specifically as a black illustrator is that we have to be more proactive and create spaces for ourselves if there aren’t spaces for us.

How can we create a more inclusive design world and ensure that Black people are represented?

I think one place to start is within schools. Creativity should be encouraged, given a lot more of a platform, and shown as a viable career option, not just a hobby. Once that mindset changes it becomes a more attainable goal for many children (especially black children). I know so many amazing black creatives who weren’t supported in their desire to go into creative fields but have the caliber to do so, and if they do eventually find their way back, they have to work twice as hard.

Another thing is a consistent community, not just a one-off event but ongoing, open opportunities for young black creatives to connect, get support, and learn about the creative industry from professionals. Obviously, there are a lot more ideas to mention, but for me, these are things I’ve noticed could definitely help many people and make the creative industry a lot more accessible.

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