Sarah-Mecca Abdourahman creates new artwork for CBC Ottawa's community newsletter
With winter here and spring right around the corner, it is the perfect time to freshen up the look of our community newsletter, The Highlight. We asked local artist Sarah-Mecca Abdourahman to create a new illustration for winter and early spring representing what our newsletter is all about—community.
Read our Q&A below to find out more about Sarah and her design.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm an emerging Somali-Indian multidisciplinary artist based in Ottawa and Montreal. My art practice involves both mixed media painting and video art. Through the re-working of family photo albums, my work addresses my cultural history, using my art practice as a means to connect with my heritage. Through this process, I explore concepts of migration, familial history, and discrimination. My work aims to offer visibility towards Black figuration within the dialogue of Canadian art spaces.
What's your favourite "hidden gem" in the city?
I think my favourite hidden gem in the city is not hidden at all but I love the bike bath that surrounds the canal and takes you around downtown. I've been doing it since I was a kid with my friends and family. What's so fun is that it leads you outside downtown as well, so when I lived in Kanata as a kid, my dad and I would start there and bike to the Parliament and come back. It was really fun because we would start our trail in the forest and suddenly we were downtown. These were really fun memories as a kid, so I would say this is my favourite gem in the city. Not really hidden, but it's a great activity to do with friends visiting the city.
What Inspires You?
I think what mostly inspires me is other talented artists and their works. Every time I start a work of art, I do a research phase and it usually starts by going on Pinterest and finding what inspires me. I'm really attracted to primary colours and I love finding artists that share similarities with me. I like to analyze what makes their work successful and how I can improve mine.
Name another Ottawa artist whose work you admire.
An Ottawa artist that I admire and that I got to work on a few projects with this year is Laurena Finéus. We met on Instagram through a mutual friend right before the pandemic. Since the summer of 2020, we have been working together, and I grew fond of her work. Her paintings have wonderful use of storytelling, reference historical moments, and are beautifully detailed. It's the kind of work you can spend hours looking at.
Describe Ottawa's arts community in 5 words or less.
I'm not too familiar with the Ottawa arts community since I studied in Montreal, but since being back for the last two years I would describe it as a "growing space for opportunity/experiences." Since being here during the pandemic I got to work on so many great projects and learned so much. I got to grow my network and meet so many new people. So, I'd say Ottawa was the great place to officially start my artistic career.
What Does Your Artwork Represent?
I think my art represents many things, but mostly my identity, my experiences, and my community.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I'm not exactly sure how I would exactly describe my artistic style, I feel like my artistic career is only starting so I'm still learning and experimenting. But I think one thing in my work that has always remained consistent is my use of primary or vibrant colours and depicting my family in my work.
Tell us about your illustration for The Highlight. What inspired your interpretation and how'd you approach the design?
I started my approach thinking about what can I bring to this? I think my answer was a vibrant use of colour and painterly figures. I wanted to blend my graphic design background along with my traditional painting background. I was inspired by Joy Labinjo's work. Her paintings are often executed with a solid flat background and very sculpted figures. I decided to make use of my older paintings and place the figures inside the composition. Then I created the scenery from scratch.
Where can we find more of your work in Ottawa?
You can find more of my work at Wallack Galleries. I'm having a group exhibition there on February 18-27, titled "Double Dutch". And if they are still there, you can find my mural on painted cubes in Lansdowne and the Glebe Park.
You can also check out Abdourahman's website to see more of her work.
Are you interested in creating an illustration for The Highlight? We're adding to our list of creators and we'd love to hear from you. We're looking for artists whose work reflects diversity, conversation, community and a love of all things local. If that sounds like you, send an email to email@example.com.