Kenya-born, Washington-based graphic designer and illustrator, Monica Obaga, has been doodling all her life. “My maths exercise books in Standard 3 can prove it, wherever they are,” she joked in an interview with VISI Magazine. But she originally thought she’d grow up to be a fashion designer. Her early interest in fashion design later blossomed into a fandom of all things design.
With experience in digital design for web, mobile and social media, as well as print design of tote bags, business cards and large format prints including artboards, event banners, and advertising posters – Obaga has a lot on her plate.
Her 2D creations are minimal, geometric, and colorful, inspired by folk styles seen in Kenya (and all over Africa) such as Kisii soapstone sculpture, Maasai beadwork, Kikuyu weaving, Swahili lesos, and more.
“My first real color palette was based on Maasai beadwork,” she recalled. “It’s evolved over the years but that was my way of stamping my work as African without being derivative. The abstract, organic shapes in my work are directly influenced by the soapstone sculpture from Kisii, where my parents are from. I love that something that could be called ‘modern minimal’ is a traditional craft of my people.”
“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 admits. “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!”
Follow her empowering journey on Instagram.