YO YO YOHANNANovember 20, 2013
Yohanna Alem – artist, designer, hip-hop enthusiast and lucky for us, part of the crew up in UO Edinburgh. When Yohanna’s in-store exhibition hit our screens a few weeks back, we knew there was something unique about her style. So here she is, telling us all about it. Nice…
UO: Yo Yohanna. Tell us what inspires your art?
YA: Music and traveling are my main inspirations. I lived in India last year, which had a big effect on me; I was there for six months and was even homeless for a week.
UO: What about the music?
YA: I’ve been listening to hip-hop since I was little and haven’t stopped since. I have a huge collection of old hip-hop magazines, like 100 or so, mostly from the US and UK. My art tends to involve portraits of all my favourite hip-hop artists from 1973 to 2013.
UO: Your collection of shirts look awesome – what’s it all about?
YA: It was for my final project at university. Most of the work is portraiture and I decided to use them on my designs. The collection was exhibited inside the UO Edinburgh store when we had a hip-hop event and I was drawing some live art too. It went down really well and I had a load of people asking if they could buy my work.
UO: Hold up, is that Sea Sick Steve wearing one?
YA: Yeah! I was at one of his concerts and I happened to have one with me. He saw it and was like “that’s a cool shirt, can I try it on?”. I would‘ve given it to him but it wasn’t finished it and I needed it for my final collection.
UO: Who’s been your main inspiration as an artist?
YA: My mum’s always been the one to encourage me to explore art. She’s quite the revolutionary soul. She was a part of a guerilla movement in Ethiopia when she was 16 and fought against suppression back in the day.
From an artist perspective Jean-Michel Basquiat is a big inspiration, although I’m careful about the difference between inspiration and influence. I don’t like to see artists ripping off each other’s work. His story and work is so weird, but really interesting.
UO: So you must have a top three for hip-hop artists yeah?
YA: 2pac – to me – is a poet, his mind fascinates me and his life story is amazing. Nas is another big one, he’s got all the classic tunes that get people going, plus I love his husky voice. I’d have to say Gang Starr too.
Check out Yohanna’s website for more visuals.
Photo Credit – Robyn Myna – datsueba.com