Artist Creates Minimal Illustrations Inspired by African Folklore

Graphic designer and illustrator, Monica Obaga, describes her style as colorful, minimal, and African. The Nairobi-born, Washington, DC-based artist developed her unique style while living in the United States, though most of her inspiration comes straight from her motherland.

According to Obaga, her work stems from a love of local African art such as Kisii soapstone sculptures, Maasai beadwork, Kikuyu weaving, and Swahili lesos. So it comes as no surprise that her journey into illustration was kicked into gear by an early interest in fashion design. “I love that something that could be called ‘modern minimal’ is a traditional craft of my people,” said Obaga in an interview with VISI Magazine.

“I don’t consider myself a great artist, but when I started posting on the internet, you couldn’t run a search for African artists that weren’t from West Africa,” she added. “I think I just wanted to encourage young and talented African people to put their work out there, in progress, without fear. There is so much out there now, so in turn, young and incredibly talented Africans inspire me today.”

“What I love most about being creative is that it’s the thing that can take a situation from hopeless to endless in possibility,” she went on to explain. “Creativity is inherently human because we don’t know the future. We’re creating each moment as we live it. If creation is the act of making from nothing, then creativity is the attitude required for it to happen. When you’re aware of it, it’s so empowering.”

Take a look at some of her striking illustrations.