5 things I miss about London

 

I know, I know Amsterdam, the 'Dam' — the bikes, the parks, the slowness of life, everything is good here, wahwahwah. But let me not even front that I've been crying real thug tears since I left London. Even though I really love Amsterdam, London has some real gems and I have to give it its due props. Here are 5 reasons why I think London's a pretty awesome city.

1. The tube
I'm starting off with a bang here. not very many people appreciate being packed into a train like a tin of sardines, but really, once you start seeing your fellow commuters as family members at the yearly cook-out rather than the dispensers of questionable body odours, you really won't mind having the odd armpit in your face or piss stained seat covers. Apart from Canada Water at peak times, the constant delays, the array of smells or the Central Line, which by the way, ought to be called the Passage of Satan — I've now come to miss the collective annoyance of the average commuter. There's a common sigh you all share when the man on the speakers starts with "We're sorry to announce that the [enter ridiculously early time] has been delayed by ten thousand light years"."Can you PLEASE move down the train, some of us need to get to work" a desperate commuter would shout, which was then always met with under-the-breath muttering of there being no space in the carriage. 

2. The buzz of the creative world
As a creative, this is a no brainer — London hosts some of the world's best active design agencies, and by extension a lot of pretty good designers. When I say 'active' design agencies, I mean that there are a lot of design/networking agency hybrids at almost every corner in London. So even if you aren't a creative, you're bound to walk into some kind of event hosted by design studios. I miss going in those places with a friend or two and chatting shit about design or getting cautiously tipsy with a creative director who you're vying to give you your next job, boobs and booze anyone?

3. Londoner's are actually super warm
Perhaps it's because I lived in London for ages so I have a bit of a soft spot for its roamers, but it's true. There's a certain charm about Londoners, from the overt politeness that probably isn't even genuine to the to the small talk about yet another late train. Also going to events was always fun because you could always strike up a conversation with random people and forge an actual relationship with them afterwards. People are a lot more friendlier in London. Staying in touch with Dutch people or forming lasting relationships with people you meet here is a lot less easy-going than I expected. As much as Londoners are described as ice-cold, once that barrier's broken you can expect to go for a pint or two with Keith or Lucy once a week until you're accepted as a regular.

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4. 24hour everything
Seriously, Albert Heijn (Holland's biggest supermarket) closes at 10pm. I'm still pissed about this one because what if I want to pick something up on my way home from a late shift at work or something? To be honest, I very rarely went to the shops at 10pm, but I knew that the option was always there if I needed something. Plus even if the supermarkets weren't open, at least there were some corner stores. That's another thing, there are more bread and cheese shops than corner shops and they don't even do OV Chipboard (akin to an Oyster card) top-ups. It's a mess and I'm still mad about it 6 months on.

5. My eyebrow lady
Lastly, I have to give a shout out to my eyebrow lady. I had several over the course of the years that I lived there. But honestly, nothing beats Sydenham High Street, £5 to have my eyebrows snatched to the high heavens. She knew what I was about and she was about her business; the perfect arch but not too comical, thick but not too thick, she was slick with the tweezers, the subtle head moving to check if they were equal. I've been to so many eyebrow ladies here in the Dam and I've left each of the salons reminiscing the times in London when my eyebrows could cut glass. Now here, my eyebrows have never been the same. RIP.

 

Hello body, you look pretty

 

T-Shirt by Outloud Studio | (Post contains potential eating disorder triggers)

If you've ever struggled with any eating disorder, you know how daunting the topic of weight can be. Growing up, I always had a peculiar relationship with food. I never quite knew if I loathed it or loved it so much that I hated it. Comments about my weight started around the age of 10, when breasts started filling in, or in my case, not knowing the difference between breastessesssss and just plain fat to fit my already chubby frame. Looking like a black Bruce from Matilda with a Jerry Curl, I remember people pinching at my cheeks, belly and even boobs a couple of times, seemingly in awe of how my beauty and/or cuteness had faded into this prepubescent human food vacuum. Comments from aunts and uncles always had an array of joking tones ranging from "wooow, she's so big, where's her waist", "so unlike her sister" to "you're gonna have to be careful, lest she stays this way". I think then it's true when they say that you don't know what's "wrong" with you until someone tells you there's something wrong with you. These early interactions set the rolling stone of what the world at large would come to tell me in later years, that beauty had everything to do with factors outside my immediate control. 

It wasn't until I moved to England at age twelve when I discovered that comments weren't only from curious adults, but also from kids who were at the dawn of puberty. At secondary school I discovered the era of flat pierced bellies, long necks, dainty wrists and lanky arms and legs. It was then that I started taking drastic measures to control how I looked.  I swapped fufu for a tin of tuna in brine water, yam at dinner for litres of water, and lunch at school for a slice of bread if I felt really hungry. Then on came the bouts of bulimia for the next year. I'd never heard of eating disorders at that point, and I don't remember feeling like what I did was particularily wrong. I did what was logical to me, eat so not to get fat. Sure enough the weight did come off, but at an ugly price. 

 

"I never once stopped to consider how my body type could affect what my skinny would look like"

 

For the next decade of my life I continued to struggle with my weight, never skinny enough, still 'big' no matter what I did. I've always been what would be considered a "strong" girl, big shoulders, big hands and feet, easily bulked out muscle if I wanted to. This body type wasn't built to be skinny and I refused to see that. During this decade I never once stopped to consider how my body type could affect what my version of skinny would look like. I spent more time trying to get rid of my muscle definition and flatten my bum than actually considering my health. 

Now a few years later, and having to admit that it's still difficult to get this mentality out of my psyche, I ask myself what I really gained from all this self-hatred. And it really was/is self-hatred. I hated how I looked for more than half of my life. I'd walk past a mirror and dread seeing what was in front of it. I'd pinch, punch, grab, squeeze and twist at whatever fat there was. Phew, at times, I still don't know how good I feel about my body, if I'm being totally honest. I think a lot of people are silent about their weight struggles. We jokingly remark how chubby we're becoming, not really delving into how much it actually bothers us. And not to forget the slight glance up and down your body from people could be met with pre-emptive comments like "Yeah I know I've put weight on, I'm working on it", and "look at these fat thighs, how are you btw!?"I know this to be true, because I've never talked too much about my struggles with food—it always felt silly, especially because I still have the privilege of looking smaller (there really is skinny privilege in a lot of western culture!) than what I feel. And yeah, we're in an era of 'body-positivity' and acceptance, which is wonderful. But I never felt like I could relate to those messages because I never believed it for myself.

At the same time, I deeply regret the times in the past where I didn't think I was good enough. I didn't appreciate my body and I look back at those photos I took right here on my blog, which can serve as a painful reminder of where I'm not, and think what the actual fuck, Sherida — you looked great, you still do! You just don't believe it yet. I thought the whole body self-acceptance thing was a cliché...but it's cliché for a reason, and quite frankly a cliché more people should delve into, myself included. At my skinniest, I still detested my body. I just think, 'when will it ever stop?' And it won't, until I decide that I am good enough. Sadly we're always telling ourselves that we're not good enough, picking out our flaws and agonising about all the things we still need to "improve", like our bodies are some luxe showroom apartments that need to be "presentable" at all times. 

 

"I deeply regret the times in the past where I didn't think I was good enough"

 

Now some years older, I can tell from the way I have to suck in my belly a little bit more to appear flat in my dresses that my body hasn't been quite as fit as it used to be. A whole two stones heavier, three inches or so around the mid-section and I need to genuinely be okay with that right now, not just seeing "body-confidence" as a trendy hashtag but harnessing it as personally as I can. I'm blessed to have a body that is healthy and functions as it's supposed to, that alone is cause to be grateful. I'm a grown woman with grown woman body-parts, and I'm not going to waste time lamenting what I had as a 16 year old girl with eating disorders. I have to accept myself as I am now, work towards being stronger, healthier and slimmer again but in a non-obsessive way. I want to work towards my goal boldly out of love for my body and not hatred. 

 

The Collective, The Collaborative and The Commons

When I was at University, a classmate of mine had formed a collective with some of his friends from his old school. If I remember correctly, it was a collaborative effort that merged music, photography and design. I'd not heard of a 'collective' before — not if you counted The Fugees or Wu Tan Clan. Slightly threatened by his confidence in his work, I paid very little attention to this very subject that I would come to write about seven years later. Before left home to pursue my Graphic Design BA, I'd lived in a smallish town about an hour from London, with very little cool and hip movements in the design or art world. In any case, I certainly was never hip or savvy enough to envision my own collective. Instead, I was a type of nerdy girl, set on doing things the 'traditional' way, working my way up in the industry. I suppose I always felt insecure about choosing an art-based subject where its connotations were not as notable as more theoretic/academic studies. So I crammed as much art and design history into my head as possible and filled my speech with "Well, typography is almost as old as mankind"...wahwahwah. 

 

"the tides were turning, and new ways of becoming a graphic designer were developing"

I charged myself with art movements and manifestos (most of which I'm extremely rusty on nowadays), learned the names of big design agencies, artists and typographers. I was taught earlier on in my art and design education that this is the way design careers had to be started. And while this was somewhat true, in that it had been the way success had been achieved for a lot of people, the tides were turning, and new ways of becoming a graphic designer were developing. I'm reluctant to use terms like 'the future of design' or 'changing' in this type of text because the idea of design as a constant cog of change is a vague subject to grasp in one sitting.

In the same breath, the concept of young people setting a tone for their creative lives, and establishing themselves as designers before their studies had finished was a notion I shunned very hard...I felt that it was all so entitled. So you can imagine how I turned my nose up at someone my age wanting to carve their own path so early. This classmate of mine believed he could and so he did. He merged his creative abilities together with some other creative people in different fields and they just did what felt good to them. It was a crew based on a creative commons. Though through this experience, I learned to find the value in the 'crew' and 'clique', something was still missing for me. I had never grown up in one place, let alone had people in my life who were also creative like me, so to not have any allegiance to any particular creative 'clique' was a little alienating. 

"I was lucky to work, and at times intern for companies who really taught me valuable things"

I still find value in the encouragement that, given the right circumstances, students ought to join established firms first, learn the ropes, then venture out on their own...if only for a little while. My experiences at *established firms and agencies gave me the confidence that I have today. Through having multiple commercial jobs in the design and publishing industry, I learned how to deal with seemingly impossible deadlines, work-place conflicts, redundancies and much much more. I'd never take any of those experiences back...okay maybe I'd take back working for one or two of those companies... But I was lucky to work, and at times intern for companies who really taught me valuable things, both in skill-set development and professional conduct. My freelance jig is now a much richerer experience because of working in the industry first. 

I was speaking to a close friend of mine about how design businesses are steadily harnessing a new form. We both agreed that we didn't want to be freelancers or in an agenct but that there ought to be a middle ground. That we could take the good out of both and merge them as a sort of microcosm. Using the example of my classmate's collective concept before, without creating a clique (as many design agencies/studios are/do), designers would just exist as collaborators and collectives. 

What if we started to utilise an index of people who would be willing share a brief and people worked together per project. To put things into perspective; a brand approaches a print-based designer about a project. The print designer knows that the project is exciting, but could be fulfilled to a much greater extent with use of web design and motion graphics. This designer then enlists various people in his index to see if they can bring the project to full completion. Now of course there's a hole in this instance — money. How would finances be resolved? If a brand approaches one designer, they're paying for what they're getting — one designer. How will you convince the brand to employ you and five other people as a collective? I haven't figured out the full answer yet. But I will say this, sometimes brands approach you with a singular request; they see the end product without fully realising what the whole package of that product could become. They see their product as singular, but as a designer, it's your job to help them envision it as diverse as possible. That's brand identity design 101. 

 

"the world is becoming (or already is) increasingly multi-channelled"

Finally, the reason why I'm becoming more and more convinced that the collective approach is the way to go, is because the world is becoming (or already is) increasingly *multi-channelled. A magazine 20 years ago would've thrived being just a print publication, but now that same magazine needs to be able to translate well online and potentially as an app. Who fills these boots? Certainly not print designers who would've designed these publications 20 years ago, but that doesn't mean that these designers are to be pushed aside in favour of UI/UX designers, or motion designers etc. It just means that there is now, more than ever, a need for collaboration and collectivity of the wide array of designers we have currently. Of course I'm aware that these types of design ideologies exist already, but I call to light that this mode of work should be a natural option when conversations are being had about current work methods of freelancers graphic design and design studios.

Notes: 
*Established: Main job providing comfortable income, having employees, and/or with capability to expand.
*Multi-Channelled: is just a fancy way of saying that brands are using multiple ways to reach customers, from billboards, to installations to apps...basically everything.

#SHEART16 EXHIBITION

 

And, it's wrap, homies

 

I won't write too much, because between moving countries and setting this event up, I've barely had any sleep. Thank you so much for coming. The energy was impeccable, I couldn't have asked for anything better. We sold out of all our stock! Intense right!?!!??!?! This means that there are now no more copies in the physical Fashaddict store, but postcards and prints are still available for sale in my online store, and now with free shipping on all orders. www.sheridakuffour.com/shop Thank you so so much again, I'm very grateful. Regular posting will continue in September. 

 

Photos by myself, Justina & Maryan

www.sheridakuffour.com/shop

Free shipping on all orders starting from 8th August!

 

SheridaKuffour x FashaddictLDN — You're Invited

 

It's currently 10.30pm, I'm sat on my mother's couch watching CSI, and full up with rice and stew. I cannot believe this year so far. To say it's been/is a whirlwind is an understatement. If you follow me anywhere on social media, then you'll know that I've been exhausting all areas with my art. I've never done this before! What I mean is, I've never been this shameless in promotion of myself or my art as I have been in the last 5 days (and guys, it's EXHAUSTING, I'm tired of my own voice). From opening my shop last week, to trying to spread the word, and doing all the background work. I haven't really stopped. And this exhibition is no exception. Next week, I'm having an exhibition. I'm doing this with zero money, and really no plan—I'm just gonna to wing it. I got offered the space so last minute and I could either turn it down in fear of not being able to do it for lack of money, or say yes and sort the rest out later. Evidently, I chose the latter. Back in March, I flippantly joked about having an exhibition/party for all my friends. If you know me in real life then you'll know that this is so not me. I've never hosted a party or an event of any kind, so this is a whole new thing for me.

"Also didn't someone say to do one thing everyday that scares you?" 

Also didn't someone say to do one thing everyday that scares you? Well, it suffice to say that this is definitely frightning me. Nevertheless, it's important I press on. Today my sweet mother bought me some frames for the exhibition. When I told her I'd opened my shop, she kinda laughed and said "okay". Bless her. She's so invested in seeing me through this graphic design career. She gets that. She "gets" graphic design, it's tangible, it's something she can explain it, and even add her commentary to art movements or brand identities. But when I told her about my illustration exhibition and shop, she looked at me like "what are you up to now Sherida?". To be honest, I don't really know what I'm up to. I've always regarded myself as a graphic designer and nothing else. But for the first time, I'm coming around to the idea that I might actually be an illustrator too...and an art director...as well a photographer. In the design industry, it's something of a taboo to be a jack of all trades, because you're seen as undecided. At least that's what I've found in London. Plus, the truth is, sometimes I don't think I have the authority to claim all these "titles".

"Who knows what comes next after these small beginnings"

But I'm digressing massively. What I mean to say is, I'm tapping into owning this multi-disciplined lifestyle. This shop, this exhibition, is a manifestation of tiny thoughts planted by my friends and you my readers! From little comments here on this blog from people as close as Berlin to as far as Russia, thank you. 7 years blogging and counting. On to the next aye! Who knows what comes next after these small beginnings. Some books? Some cool collaborations? Some creative videos maybe? The possibilities are truly endless. 


Come celebrate, dance to some 90s music, drink some cheap wine and eat haribos, because we're all young and too broke to afford fancy Wine from South Africa and posh french canapés. be sure to follow my instagram,  and twitter for regular updates! 

Twitter, Snapchat & Instagram: @sheridada

See you real soon. 
Sherida —x.

 

The Five women in the art shop

On the women that make up this collection

Zipporah (Red) was the first one. She was the first name of the pack. I knew I wanted to draw somebody called that name. In the Bible, Zipporah was the wife of Moses, and daughter (adopted, I've always assumed) of Midianite Priest, Jethro. She's only mentioned a few times, but her name means 'Sparrow' or 'Little Bird'. It was then that I picked up a book by Marek E. Halter called 'Zipporah'. It was a fiction novel about Zipporah's life or how it might've gone. Of course, there was no real biblical basis, but I was instantly drawn to the her story of rejection. Throughout her life, her dark skin places her firmly in the bosom of an outsider. She's fierce and loyal but stubborn, hot tempered and very deeply vulnerable. In many ways, it was the first time that I saw myself in any of my illustrations. It's why she remains my favourite piece I've ever done. 

"Throughout her life, her dark skin places her firmly in the bosom of an outsider."

As for Noa (Pink), the idea for her came much much later. I loved creating her, but for some reason she didn't quite stick. She felt too out of place compared to the others I'd illustrated. She was too playful, too young almost. It was then when I was randomly reading Numbers 27, that I came across this story about a man called Zelophehad who passed away, leaving five daughters behind. In the absence of a male heir, these five daughters fought and petitioned for their inheritance because there was no male to carry the inheritance. By fighting this traditional custom, and going against society's male grip on their destinies, these five women, and particularly Noa—who was the speaker refused to be robbed of what was rightfully theirs.

Ultimately, I created these characters based on women in the Bible whose stories I find most interesting. For me, being able a Christian and a feminist are so deeply intertwined. I discovered so much of myself, that is, being black, and being a woman when I converted to Christianity. I found me, my passions, and compassions in Him. It's a very odd thing to say in this climate we're currently in, but it's something I've never been more sure of. 

 

Make sure you check out my shop for these prints and loads more stuff coming up. 

www.sheridakuffour.com/shop