Playing around with art and digital tools to represent the beauty of those forgotten women. His passion for drawings allowed him to portray black and mixed-raced women through digital format while letting his audience relate to his personal artistic technique. Designing, is a mean to call upon the reader’s imagination as to make them more comfortable with his specific universe. So, please join us in the universe of AYIKA’A. – Philipe Niamien

Who are you Philipe Niamien ?

Hello, my name is Philippe-Auguste Niamien, I am currently a sophomore pursuing a Bachelor in Conception 3D VFX Animation.
Before that, I got a double undergraduate degree in Cinema Audiovisual Image, Scene and Production. Art, under all its possible forms, is my passion. I am a designer, self-taught illustrator, and I have been playing piano since I was 13 years old. Indeed, I went to the conservatory at the Goethe Institute cultural center, in Abidjan (Ivory Coast).

Why did you decide to be part of this project ?

I have been observing the AYIKA’A project from afar since its inception. This shows you that I was not indifferent to the premise of the latter: self-identity, outside women representation, women representation to themselves, or that which we force onto them through the “All-powerful Mister MEDIA”. However, I was also distancing myself from it, as it seemed like a matter for women rather than one that would involve men. So, I could not picture myself as a soldier of this battle. Furthermore, as a mere designer, illustrator/director, I was not sure how I could contribute to the realization of Cindy’s project.
That being said, on day Cindy reached out to me, herself. It was easy for her to do so, as we are childhood friends. She made me understand that she wished for an illustration that would represent the ideals she was striving for through AYIKA’A (I would like to point out that being a very shy and reserved person, I accepted without thinking about it twice!) “Omg, what have I just done?” I had realized that I had undertaken the responsibility to conceptualize the illustration that would become the back bone of the project, the one that would be used to represent it first-hand to the public! After one month of back and forth, I started working on it in spite of the worry that inhabited my soul.

I am the only black out of approximatively 80 students

Black people, in all the shades they come in, suffer in silence. They do so, for different reasons ranging from their physical appearance to their cultural heritage. It is in fact my place to speak on this, as the African/ black representation in my field of study, is rare or inexistent. Just to give you an idea, I have been the only black person in my school from my preparatory year to my master cycle. I am the only black out of approximatively 80 students, it can seem surprising but it is the ugly truth. I am the black spot at the center of the white sheet of paper. This has constantly forced me to fight to get to and more importantly remain at the top of the pile. It is a daily battle !
This daily battle, ended up making me forget who I really am, to the point of not knowing how to represent myself anymore. This matter of image and representation, is in fact an everyday struggle that was given to us by society and I do not think that women are the only victims of it.

What did it bring to you ?

One day, I found myself facing a true “designer block”. I did not know how to draw black/mixed-raced hair under all its forms and shapes. It was really frustrating and saddening, for the African that I am. This is how I realized that the majority of the characters I had been drawing was white… Oh, how ashamed I was ! That was a cold slap in the face.
Some things that should have been coming to me naturally, were a real struggle ! That being said, I know that this is the only way to really improve. So, I had learned to draw these traits that I am supposed to be familiar to. This is how I finally understood the true meaning of this project.