Thaakierah Abdul is using graphic design to push for Cape Malay recognition

The 2018 Design Indaba Emerging Creative draws inspiration from her family and people in the streets like informal traders.

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Having attended the Design Indaba Festival since she was in grade eleven, 23-year old graphic designer Thaakierah Abdul was always certain she’d one day showcase her work at the festival.

“I always told everyone,” she says, “‘The end result is I exhibit at Design Indaba.’”

Last year, that long held aspiration came to pass when she was selected to be part of the Emerging Creatives Class of 2018.

A graphic design student at Stellenbosch University, Abdul uses her visual work – which deftly combines both imagery and text – to break down barriers within her own community, push for the recognition of her cultural heritage and reject all forms of marginalisation.

For her exhibition at Design Indaba 2018, Abdul created what she has termed ‘a visual culture’ based on her Cape Malay heritage.

Cognisant of how much of the history of her culture has been ignored or erased by the legacy of white supremacy, her experimentations with graphics, typography and imagery capture her experience of life as a Cape Malay woman.

Considering her work to be something of a collaboration with those she interacts with on a daily basis, Abdul draws inspiration from family members, people on the streets, and even the informal traders that characterise Cape Town’s streets.

Passionate about working with her hands, she loves to fight convention – both conceptually and in terms of design. Even the name of her brand is slightly atypical.

‘My personal brand is called White Space,” Abdul explains, “which is a design principle and its something I’m not good at.” Ironic and amusing, it’s also a reference to her position as a coloured, Muslim woman occupying space at the historically white University of Stellenbosch.

Thanks to Abdul’s eye-catching display at Design Indaba, she was also was the recipient of a bursary that will enable her to complete her Master's degree.

Applications for the 2020 Design Indaba Emerging Creatives programme are now open!  APPLY NOW!

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