In Conversation with Sarah Akinterinwa: The Intimacy of Illustrating Everyday Life

Saschan Fearon  |  3rd Aug 2020

We recently caught up with artist Sarah Akinterinwa creator of Oyin & Kojo

 I came across Sarah’s work after a friend tagged me in a post of hers over on Instagram and was instantly drawn to the intimacy and humour in sharing everyday experiences as a couple in a way that is rarely portrayed. I’m hopelessly single BUT I completely fell in love with the small acts of joy, annoyance, fun and emotion that Sarah details in her work. They’re reflective of the everyday nuance of life with someone and in a world where relationships are hyper glamourised and everything has a filter her black and white illustrations provide an honest and tender insight into the realities of our relationships.

Check out the conversation with Sarah below and if you’re not already sign up to our newsletter using the bar below to keep upto date with features like this and other fun bits and bobs as part of your bi-weekly digital care package!

That time of the month

Where are you based?

I am based in Northfleet, Kent

What do you do?

I am an English language teacher and I am also an artist.

What inspired you to start?

What inspired me to start Oyin and Kojo was the lack of representation of black people in art, specifically in comic art. I never considered myself a cartoonist, but I have always followed cartoon pages on Instagram, and some of my favourites are cartoon couples. I wanted a way to showcase black love in a fun and engaging way.

What are you most passionate about sharing and exploring through your work?

I am passionate about shedding light on the intimate moments black couples share that we do not often get to see. In my opinion, relationships between black men and women are often hypersexualised in the media and even in art. While it is important to normalise black sexuality, I want to do my part to normalise intimacy in a black relationship in non-sexual ways. I want to show two black people cuddling, holding hands, and caressing, for example, as a reminder to ourselves that there are so many ways to love each other. In addition, I love showing Oyin in her silk bonnet or an oversized shirt, dressed down, and still worthy of admiration and affection from Kojo. This is inspired by my own experience of being in a relationship and discovering that I do not have to look perfect around the person I love to feel sexy.

Why do you think art is an important tool for discussing social, cultural and personal experiences?

As an artist, I seek to challenge or build on what people already know or think they know. When it comes to social, cultural, and personal experiences, art is a great way to draw attention. I also find art emotionally evocative, and some social and cultural issues that Oyin and Kojo touch on call for an emotional response and some introspection. I like to think that for many people who can relate to the subjects explored through each illustration, it is small relief to know that they have been seen and advocated for.

As an artist, I seek to challenge or build on what people already know or think they know. When it comes to social, cultural, and personal experiences, art is a great way to draw attention.

~ Sarah Akinterinwa

Head rubs

How do you use your work to support others?

In the illustrations covering important subjects, such as menstruation, contraception, and racism, I ensure that I include a meaningful and resourceful message in the caption. The purpose of this is to encourage black people to start necessary conversations with each other and with ourselves.

What is a quote you live by or feel empowered by?

I am very inspired by the artist @AmandaOleander who quotes her career adviser in school that said “Do what you are passionate about, otherwise you will be stuck in a job competing with people who are doing what they are passionate about.” I use this quote as inspiration as I pursue a career as a full-time artist!

How can people connect with you?

You can find Oyin and Kojo on Instagram and Twitter @OyinandKojo. You can also follow my personal Instagram @sarah_a_art.  am open for commissions and always happy to collaborate in anyway!

Black lives matter

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