Assil Diab: Being an Arab Muslim female painting the streets is not always applauded

Assil Diab, is a Sudanese visual artist, graphic designer and graffiti artist based in Doha, Qatar. She is the first female graffiti artist emerging from Qatar and Sudan. Assil graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Graphics Design. She also holds a diploma in Digital Marketing and a Diploma in Advanced Social Media Marketing & ORM.

Known as ‘Sudalove’, today her work consists of mixed media and painting canvases using nothing but spray paint, “Graffiti on Canvas”. Assil’s first solo graffiti project was with SDI Marketing in Qatar where she was commissioned to paint at the Renaissance Hotel in Qatar for Cirque Eloize’s Press Conference. One of her great achievements  was when she  joined internationally known French-Tunisian artist El Seed in a Calligraffiti Project to paint one of the largest graffiti projects in the world in the Salwa Road Tunnels.


Feature photograph by: Ahmed Shaheen  


I’m a very quite person in general but once I start talking, it’s through that can Click To Tweet

Assil DiabPhotograph by: Tariq Mohammed Al-Fatieh

When you are tagging you are basically speaking to the world through street art. From the responses you have had so far do people actually get the message?

Being an Arab, Muslim female painting the streets is not always applauded. I’m a very quite person in general but once I start talking, it’s through that can.Graffiti is visually appealing because it is public art. It’s literally putting your art, thoughts, and feelings in people’s faces. Public art has the power to evoke thought and start dialogues. It is my way of communicating with society.


Tell us about the very first time you decided to hit the walls. What was the first tag and how was it received?

I started doing making art on paper and painting on t-shirts and shoes in my early teens. Then about three years ago, at the age of 25, I began taking it up as a profession.

I used to see graffiti everywhere while riding the metro in New York- where I was doing my internship as a photographer & graphic designer in Brooklyn. I was fascinated by graffiti, with all its shapes and colors. I loved what I was seeing on the streets and I wanted to be a part of it.

I’ve always liked challenging myself to see what I could do. So in 2013 I joined Public Works Authority ‘Ashghal’ and Qatar Museums Authority. I joined on a 4-month long internship to assist Tunisian-French calligraphist, El Seed, in painting the Salwa Road Tunnels; and that’s where I picked up a spray can for the first time.

I have never put the spray can down since those intense 4 months of graffiti. My first exhibition was in VCU-Q Bookstore where I sold 9 paintings of 13 in just two days. The paintings were painted using nothing but spray paint aka “Graffiti on Canvas”. I later switched my signature from my original name assil.diab to SudaLove. Which is my way of expressing my love and represents my home country, Sudan.


Assil DiabPhotograph by: Ahmed Shaheen Â 

There can be negative connotations associated with graffiti. What do you wish people knew?

Graffiti is not just for men. It’s not all about hip-hop, or gang-related, and it doesn’t have to be illegal. Most people don’t take it seriously and fail to see it as a profession. In fact, most of my work is commissioned, so I do get paid for it.

Also, often, people confuse mural art for graffiti or vice versa. There is a difference. There are no governing laws or rules to graffiti. Graffiti Is faster/quicker. But, there’s a lot of thought process & sketching when it comes to mural art, also, you don’t tend to use only spray paint when painting a mural.


Do you ever collaborate?

I’m working on a collaboration right now actually. I’m working with three local artists painting Aspire in Doha, Qatar. The first time I worked with these guys was in December 2016 painting in Katara. Besides these two collaborations I have only done exhibition collabs- where we all showcased our work on canvas in a particular hotel or gallery.


Assil DiabPhotograph by: Tariq Mohammed Al-Fatieh

Approximately how much time do you devote to art?

From the time I wake to whenever I need to go back to sleep. If I am not painting, I’m thinking about a sketch way before it needs to go up on a wall or canvas. My surroundings are full of art. I spend even more time looking at art, visiting museums, galleries, events, sketching and writing emails at least two hours a day talking about art. Or responding to emails that involve or commission artwork.

Even on the days when I don’t feel creative, I still have a consistent work ethic Click To Tweet

Are you still working on fashion as well?

Yes, I get special, sometimes unusual requests for T-shirt designs. As a fashion designer, I do not specialize in one category of apparel- I hand paint T-shirts, shoes and hats. I’m also working on a collection of Sudanese women’s “teyabs” using contemporary designs for the younger generation.

In 2010, I worked as an intern fashion photographer at Katya Moorman’s Style Defined NYC in Brooklyn, New York. I was also assisting with the design of the marketing materials for Better Than Kate, an award winning street style blog.

In addition to taking various courses in fashion design, my graphic design degree provides the required skills for fashion.

Assil DiabPhotograph by: Tariq Mohammed Al-Fatieh

What is your creative process is like?

I practice a lot of sketching in my little black book. Sometimes I’ll scan a sketch and enhance it on illustrator or a similar program. Sketching helps me grow and develop. I get inspired by everything – religion, politics, travel, culture, earth, feelings and reading.

When I’m interested in developing a new technique in graffiti, specifically, I go out and find a wall to practice on until it’s mastered. Even on the days when I don’t feel creative, I still have a consistent work ethic. My creativity is lead by my emotions and feelings at that particular time.

I’m also very easily distracted. I spend more time trying to discipline myself to get back into a particular artistic mind state, rather than the actual execution of the artwork. I remain involved with my imagination in an hourly and daily manner. I try to stay connected with everything and anything that inspires me- that way my creativity finds it’s way into a canvas.

Are you in the Graffiti art business?

Let us know more about you and your story here.

Ipinayo Ade-Akingboye: Know the difference between a business and a hobby

Ipinayo Ade-Akingboye
I wouldn't say self-taught but I didn't have any formal training in photography - Ipinayo Ade-Akingboye Click To Tweet

Ipinayo Ade-Akingboye likes to think of herself as a creative. The short #MotherlandMogul studied Architecture in the University of Lagos but is currently a wedding and portrait photographer based in Lagos, Nigeria. Ipinayo is often playing Candy Crush but finds time to run her photography hustle.

She was a Finalist for the Etisalat photo competition in 2012 and was nominated for Eloy awards Female Photographer of the year. Ipinayo also participated in the Fayrouz L’original competition and her team came second.

Was there a specific time when you realised that photography is a viable career choice?

Hmm, all I can say for sure is that I really enjoyed every time I was shooting. It became something I didn’t mind doing for the rest of my life.

I chose photography as a career choice when I concluded my NYSC. Although I had been shooting for about 3 years professionally, it never really was full time. If I had exams coming up or school obligations, I would not take jobs. But so far, I have been able to start photography full time this year and I am enjoying it.

You’re also an architect, how do you combine your knowledge of architecture and photography, if ever?

Well, architecture taught me discipline and how to solve problems. Before I start a session or organize one, I ask myself certain questions like;

  • Who is it for,
  • What is it for,
  • What solution or experience is it meant to provide?

That’s all from my architectural experience.

Are you self-taught or do you have formal training in photography? Would you say one option is better than the other?

I wouldn’t say self-taught but I didn’t have any formal training in photography. I have these amazing friends who used to let me follow them about while they were shooting. They helped me a lot when I had questions.

How long did you have to learn and perfect your craft before you could earn a living through your photography?

I can’t really put a time stamp to that cause we are always learning, I have not stopped learning. I think anyone at any stage can earn money through photography.

It all depends on the kind of work you’d like to be known for, the quality you put out and the type of clients you want.

How have you worked on differentiating your brand so it stands out?

I believe when you are on a journey to find out who you really are, no matter what it is that you do, your work will speak for you.

When you're on a journey to find out who you really are, your work will speak for you Click To Tweet

What’s your dream photography project?

My dream project is to travel round Nigeria and shoot a particular subject that comes in different shapes and sizes but all places have them in common.

What should a young African woman who’s interested in photography do to make her hustle successful?

She has to know the difference between a business and a hobby. She should surround herself with people who don’t think her dreams are too big and most of all, she should stay true to who she really is.

With creative people (and that includes many freelancers) the line between a business and hobby can sometime be blurry. Sometimes what started out as a hobby can transition into a business, so it’s very important to understand the rules. A key feature of a business is that it’s operated for profit. You often engage in a hobby for sport or recreation, not to make a profit.

To demonstrate a profit motive for your business, first of all make sure that you keep excellent records. It may help your case if you can keep track of some of the following information:

  • The amount of time you put into the business
  • The percentage of your total income that comes from the business
  • The reason for any losses
  • Changes and improvements you’ve made to the business
  • Evidence of your own knowledge in the field
  • A record of any past business successes including any profits made in earlier years
  • The current and anticipated future value of any business assets. Both need to be differentiated because they help you know exactly what you want and where you are headed.

There is nothing wrong with making photography a hobby, I mean thats how I started. When I decided I wanted to make a living off it, it became a business for me.

It's important that your client is comfortable around you, it allows you bring out the best Click To Tweet

What’s a typical day like for you?

I personally try as much as possible to meet my clients before the day of shooting so there is a certain level of comfort already. However, this doesn’t happen all the time.

Other times, I try to chat them up when they are getting their make up done and all. It is very important that your client is comfortable around you, it allows you bring out the best in their portraits.

Photography is not a cheap hobby, what can a budding photographer do to save money with regards to equipment etc?

Get a day job? Lol! I have so many colleagues that have/had day jobs so they could save up to get necessary equipments for them to start on their own. A professional camera costs between N850-N1.5m now, body only.

Also, not everyone would get the well paying clients immediately but you have to keep up. You have to be at alert so when its your turn, you are ready with no excuses.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

7 other viable fashion career paths

ifeoma odogwu fashion career

A career in fashion is a lot more than just having good style Click To Tweet

We’ve seen how fashion can be an empowering tool for women. There are several layers to explore with a fashion career. It’s a lot more than just having good style, and it poses several opportunities for one to exploit.

You could have a strong love for fashion and wish to make a career out of it, but not be sure you want to go down the path of fashion designer. Because that’s so mainstream?

Well, there are several other viable career options to explore. Here are 7 outlined below:

1. Fashion Stylist

This is a very lucrative path for one who is prepared to take it on. Despite how glamorous it sounds, it’s a lot of hard work that requires a good eye for detail and an understanding of your client’s needs. You’ll be working with designers, music producers, magazines etc.

The life of a fashion stylist is crazy hectic, just ask Ifeoma Odogwu of Hyperfashun. Crazy schedules, tight deadlines, a cut-throat industry; so if you’re not built for pressure, ditch the thought.

You can either work freelance or as an attaché. Starting out as a freelancer, you can’t expect to charge up a storm for your services. However, as you build your clientèle and reputation you are able to gradually increase your fees.

The life of a fashion stylist is crazy hectic, if you’re not built for pressure, ditch the thought Click To Tweet

2. Fashion Illustrator

There are much fewer fashion illustrators in the industry but it is a path that holds great promise. This is a path that requires specific skill with pencil and with the brush, with colour and with imagery. As a fashion illustrator, you get to work with fashion houses and magazines to create drawings and paintings bringing the client’s vision to life.

Claire Idera, the London-based fashion illustrator explains that there is a lot more to illustration than simply having the ability to draw silhouettes. Furthermore, one must have the ability to extract the essence of the client’s imagination and portray it with paper and colour.

If you’ve got the artistic skill and comprehensive ability to become a fashion illustrator, you’ll certainly be in high demand any time soon.

3. Fashion Editor

Are you thinking Anna Wintour? The title of fashion editor is no small feat. You must be able to write, obviously and you must also be able to wear the hat of fashion director.

Predicting fashion trends come with the territory so it goes without saying that you must be super stylish and understand fashion to a T. You’ll be supervising photo shoots, writing and editing fashion articles, selecting high-quality photos for publications.

You’ll need to pay your dues in the industry so starting out as an intern in fashion or with a magazine is always a good idea.

If you want to be a fashion editor, starting out as an intern is always a good idea Click To Tweet

4. Fashion Photographer

In Nigeria, most people think the only moneymaker for photographers is wedding shoots or coverage. Welcome to the world of greats like Kelechi Amadi-Obi.

Besides having top-notch photography skills, the aspiring fashion photographer must be organized and deeply creative. It is your job to set the tone, create the best lighting and texture that will breathe life to the fashion or art pieces on a shoot.

You should also be fashion-savvy and have the ability to think on your feet. Photographers have their work featured on fashion and lifestyle websites, blogs, print magazines, digital campaigns etc.

And hey, besides the sweet paychecks you get the repute of discovering new faces in fashion like Olajumoke Orisaguna!


5. Fashion Model

Women like Fatima Siad are killing it on the runway. If you’re not one to be behind-the-scenes then this is a great career prospect for you.

To break into the industry, you need to have a combination of looks and attitude. If you photograph well and have striking features including a fit bod, this might be a career for you. You’ll need to put together a portfolio and find good representation with reasonable terms. Laurie Frempong has taken the more challenging route of being her own PR/Manager.

Perks of the job include travelling, working with big name designers and gaining self-exposure especially if you already have an exit strategy in mind.

To break into the fashion industry, you need to have a combination of looks and attitude. Click To Tweet

6. Buyer

A buyer’s job is most interesting. Working for fashion stores, boutiques, and big fashion chains, the buyer is responsible for handpicking the pieces that go into retail.

This is done through a basic understanding of consumer psychology; observing what items customers are most interested in buying and predicting what items will be on-trend in the next season.

As the middleman between suppliers and customers, a fashion buyer must have the ability to multi-task, have a great customer approach and be super intuitive. There’s also a lot of travel involved.

7. Visual Merchandiser

Last but not least, is the visual merchandiser. This is a subtle role that no one ever really gives too much thought to except it’s an essential part of fashion marketing.

When you walk into a store, what are the first things you notice? The layout looks exquisite, doesn’t it and for some reason, the sales items are all the way behind? Well, that’s the merchandiser at work. Their job is to create an appealing outlook and prioritise the placement of pieces for optimal visibility, especially those items that need to be selling.

The role of a visual merchandiser is actually an essential part of fashion marketing Click To Tweet

Michelle Duwe, Visual Merchandising Manager of Topshop SA explains that to go down the path, you would need to have loads of energy, creativity and enthusiasm to dress up the mannequins in the display window and sort out all the fittings.

Let us know in the comments what fashion path you’re most interested in!