Tell us a bit about your work – how did you get started and get people interested in your illustrations?
Kazvare Made It is all about combining cultural references and influences in a way that is bold and colourful with a huge dash of playfulness. My illustrations were brought to life first through the stationery, homeware and accessories I created. It’s only over the past year that the illustrations have taken on a life of their own. I guess people are starting to engage more now with my work because it sits within the pop culture/current affairs space and has an injection of humour.
Often young people feel like traditional political structures don’t talk about politics in a way that makes sense to them. Some of your pieces make political or social statements; but they’re mixed with a lot of pop culture, which makes it really relatable. How important is it that illustrators and other kinds of artists use their talent to talk about these sorts of issues?
Nina Simone said it best when she said that ‘an artist’s duty…is to reflect the times’. As far as my practice is concerned, I like mixing pop culture with politics and social issues because I see them all as being interlinked with this moment and time we are living in. Everything is connected.
It’s Black History month, and a lot of your work on Instagram has covered a range of issues; from racial politics from the viewpoint of black boys in society, to the pressures of white beauty standards on black females, and the treatment of Meghan Markle by the UK press. How much of an issue do you think racism is in the UK today? And do you feel that artwork like yours can help us better understand racial politics?
Brexit (for starters!) shows how the UK is still grappling with racism in a very real way. For so many years, it’s seemed as though racism could be denied or brushed under the carpet by the majority, but Brexit is shining a light on the very ugly reality of our society. But of course, being a black person in the UK, you have felt the effects of racism way before Brexit was a thing. The UK’s version of racism (in comparison to America’s for instance) tends to be more subtle but just as pernicious and devastating.
My art is fuelled less by the desire to explain racial politics but to give words and images to what so many of us already think or at least feel. If people learn something, then that’s great. But if my work can be a balm for those of us who know what gaslighting and marginalisation feels like, then that is the joy.
Your artwork has also used a lot of historical figures to relate to things happening today. Do you feel, when it comes to equality, that we’re really making progress? Or are we not as progressive as we think?
Having just done a series on Black History called #BlackHistoryOuttakes, it’s left me with a bit of a bleak outlook, as all I’ve been seeing is a pattern of old injustices repackaged for new generations. It makes us feel better to think we’re making progress, but in the era of Trump and Brexit, I don’t think now is the time to be celebrating progress. We have a lot more work to do.
As featured in British Vogue’s Hot List and Japanese Vogue’s ‘SCOOP’