Rebelling Against Labels Through Art


By guest contributor, Nyanza D

The seemingly endless amount of labels that society forces upon an individual is extremely taxing on the soul. These labels invoke a sense of confusion that’s hard to shake once a person has fallen victim to the imaginary rulebook they come with. But, there’s a silver lining in all this. The good shit also known as art, which has historically been used as a form of protest, is then born. What would our world be without it? A few simple terms can be used to describe such thing: boring, yawn, wack, dry, a drag, a dub–you get the picture. A digital artist who enjoys challenging those societal labels shares how they empower her to simply keep creating.

Being an artist from such a young age, I know that creativity comes from nature as well as nurture. I remember seeing a variety of things that inspired me growing up including comic books, films, WWE, Bratz dolls, tv programs and music videos (hip hop and r&b ones of last decade in particular…wow). I also find that I’ve always been drawn to people that have some kind of je ne sais quoi about them.

Video girls, for example are so striking to me and that’s really important because society saw, and still sees, many black women as “masculine”. Yet, they looked beautiful. I love how people, myself included, are looking back and appreciating those times by emulating those looks now. Whether the mainstream media wants to admit it or not, that’s today’s beauty standard. One example of the people I adored growing up is Missy Elliott, who I still love. Her strong presence and music was totally against the norm during her prime. As a creative, that has always stuck with me, especially since we live in a world where Eurocentric beauty standards are seen as the standard. Her persona brought me so much joy.

BLMbyNyanzajpg.jpgNyanza for the Huffington Post, 2017.

I’ve always wanted to be like Missy and the video girls since I admired them during childhood. I used to visualize myself with all these “looks” in the future, like pink fur coats with over-the-top shoes and coloured hair–everything. So, my illustrations are a projection of those thoughts and my surroundings.

I think people of colour, because we’re often labelled, feel like we must only express what is expected of us. That restricts us because we’re so multifaceted–like diamonds, I always say. Why can’t we express ourselves outside of how society thinks we are supposed to? Why can’t we draw influences from a wide range of things? Who says we can’t admire Punk rock or Japanese art, for example? Being black is our being and our way of life but we should never feel afraid to articulate things outside of that identity. I’m not afraid of doing that and I embrace the fact that I can be a walking contradiction at times!

My art is rebellious against what people think women of colour should be. I’m very conscious of the message I send out through my images because representation reaallly does matter. People say a lot of things on the sly to make us [black women] feel like we’re all the same and like we’re not allowed to be different. Our culture is an entire spectrum, you know? But I’m glad many people are also starting to see that it is. Other times when I’m creating, I’m not trying to make a statement; I just illustrate what I like.


Seeing what’s going on in the world today, it seems like there’s so much weight on us. This weight is everywhere on social media to the point of insanity. I think that people actually need a bit of escapism for mental stability, as long as there’s a balance. If you’re too focused on reality, you can go insane. Play games, watch anime or smoke–do the things that provide some kind of relaxation and self-care. It’s okay to take a break and chill out, away from the apps.

If you’re too focused on daydreams though, you become lost. Never lose sight of what’s in front of you while holding onto your goals. But live a little! That’s what art is supposed to be.


Nyanza is from London and she’s reflective, eclectic and ambitious.

Follow her on Twitter.


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