Illustrator Vanessa of Gucora Andu answers our questions on tackling taboo topics and gender based bias’ with art.
- Tell us a bit about your art and how you became an illustrator?
My work focuses on illustrating people, especially women, and issues that concern them. In a country where aspects of African tradition contribute to widespread chauvinistic attitudes, Gucora Andu is a platform that promotes and encourages feminist values.
I started Gucora Andu in 2020 during Covid-19. I have always loved illustrations. Then all of a sudden I was working from home; with all the social distancing protocols, I found myself having more time to pursue my interests.
- How did you find your voice of using art to tackle taboo subjects?
When I started Gucora Andu it was initially just about drawing people, nothing to do with feminism or social issues. But before I was an artist, I was a feminist. My content naturally evolved to focus on things I already cared about, and the positive reception I received and steady growth on my platforms encouraged me to keep going.
- What does this years IWD theme of #BreakTheBias mean to you?
Male privilege is alive and well, and it does hurt women. We all need to recognize that we live in a culture full of double standards, and start tackling this way of thinking.
- How do you think we can stop gender bias here in Kenya?
Gender biases are internalized in so many of us, so this would require a consistent and active effort to curb over a very long period. I don’t think gender biases can ever honestly go away as long as people want to continue benefiting from them or people who see them as natural.
We have a long way to go, however, a few ways Kenyans can begin to end gender biases is by ensuring equal access to education, empowering women in the workplace, protecting reproductive rights, strengthening legal protections, and achieving better political representation.
- Which illustration out of this series spoke to you the most and why?
It would have to be the illustration about The Working Woman. There are many instances where assumptions are made about successful women that downplay their hard work and determination. This same scrutiny, is not placed as much on men.
- What is your favorite piece of artwork you have done to date from your whole collection?
I don’t think I have a favorite one, more like a couple. My illustrations addressing body positivity are still my favorite to date, and I’m always thinking up new ways to make more.
- Who inspired you to be an entrepreneur and why?
When I started Gucora Andu, I mainly saw it as a creative outlet. After I received my first few clients, I began to see it’s business potential. I started looking at what other artists were doing. One Kenyan illustrator in particular whose work I loved was Monica Obaga. She’s incredibly talented, and taking inspiration from her is part of the reason Gucora is what it is now.
- What do you think is the most significant barrier to female entrepreneurship?
Lack of access to quality education, time and money. The more women get empowered with these resources, the more female entrepreneurs we’ll see.
- Have you ever been so discouraged you wanted to quit? How do you encourage women to not give up?
When I started thinking about Gucora Andu as a business, I wasn’t sure how I would scale or grow. This frustrated me and almost led me to quit. I took a long break before coming back, getting my thoughts together, and working towards a clear goal.
I encourage women to create simple structures that allow them to achieve whatever they want one step at a time. Write things down, get the help you need, educate yourself, and do what it takes to reach your objective one day at a time.
- How have you built confidence and/or resiliency over the course of your career?
Every client I’ve worked with has taught me something new. I do my best to keep these learnings in mind and apply them at my next job or commission. Furthermore, I’ve become more confident about reaching out and asking for opportunities. It’s worked almost 70% of the time. It’s incredible the number of opportunities you can receive if you show up and ask!
While I’ve received my fair share of yes’s, I’ve also gotten some no’s. I’m not nearly as fazed with rejection as I used to be. I just keep it moving and try elsewhere.