Malaika: An Artist Q&A
Malaika is a Montreal based artist, working primarily with illustration, animation, photography and often collaborating with musicians. Her work focuses on themes of mixed-race and queer identities, femininity and empowerment.
How would you define yourself as an artist? How would you define your work?
I’m a Mexican-Canadian visual artist based out of Montreal. I’m an illustrator, animator and the Creative Director of Pink Things Magazine. I work with a lot of different mediums, especially for the magazine, but drawing has always been my go-to.
What inspires you to create?
Empathy is essential to my work, I want others to be able to feel what I do, as much as I do. I’m inspired by the intersecting aspects of my identity and by being able to contribute to my community.
Are there other artists or creatives you’ve been influenced by or find inspiration from?
I’m very inspired by the other small publications I see online and in my community. The immense amount of work that goes into creating a magazine is incredible, and I really admire the way that they’re able to foster community. Plasma Dolphin, Canvas and Cassette and Into Thin Hair are some great examples.
How does your own identity in this society (ie. queer, femme, mixed race) affect your work?
I think it informs all of my work, whether it’s my intention to focus on one of those topics in a piece or not. I’m very femme-presenting and for this reason I am often not viewed as queer by others. I am a light-skinned Mexican and because of stereotypes and misrepresentations in visual media, many people don’t believe that I am Mexican simply because “I’m not dark enough.” I often have conversations with people who question why I’m making work about this identity-topics because I don’t “look” enough like them. However, I know that creating representation for other mixed-race people is important. If I were to listen to the people who put me down for not looking “queer,” or “Mexican” enough, I would only feel worse. My work is a way of affirming my identity for myself and hopefully providing support for others.
What do you want people to take from your work? How do you want to influence other artists?
I want people to realize that there are so many different kinds of representation possible for certain identities and to not hold others to certain standards just because they fit those categories. I want people to know that everything I make is informed by my identity and experiences, but that I don’t have to make work directly depicting these experiences in order to represent them. As a professor of mine once said, you don’t have to write “bus” on a bus. I am considerate of my identities in everything I do, but I don’t want to have to conform to certain styles or topics surrounding them whenever I create new work.
I want to inspire others to speak on their experiences that have been invalidated by others. If you don’t see representation of yourself in visual media, make it yourself! Even if you don’t think it’s “good enough,” at least there’s something that represents you properly that’s out there now, that someone else can relate to.
How do you combine your art with fashion? Do you feel like fashion has a lot to do with it?
I look to a lot of fashion blogs and Instagram pages for inspiration for my illustrations. The composition of the models body, how fabric hangs, patterns, colours etc., all inspire me.
Favorite piece of clothing you currently own?
My giant pink shag rug-esque coat that I bought in Los Angeles at Out Of The Closet in Echo Park for six dollars.