Image courtesy of Trap Bob.

Trap Bob Is the 'Proud Habesha' Illustrator Creating Colorful Campaigns for the Digital Age

The DMV-based artist speaks with OkayAfrica about the themes in her work, collaborating with major brands, and how her Ethiopian heritage informs her work.

DMV-based visual artist Tenbeete Solomon also known as Trap Bob is a buzzing illustrator using her knack for colorful animation to convey both the "humor and struggle of everyday life."

The artist, who is also the Creative Director of the creative agency GIRLAAA has been the visual force behind several major online movements. Her works have appeared in campaigns for Giphy, Girls Who Code, Missy Elliott, Elizabeth Warren, Apple, Refinery 29 and Pabst Blue Ribbon (her design was one of the winners of the beer company's annual art can contest and is currently being displayed on millions of cans nationwide). With each striking illustration, the artist brings her skillful use of color and storytelling to the forefront.

Her catalog also includes fun, exuberant graphics that depict celebrities and important moments in Black popular culture. Her "Girls In Power" pays homage to iconic women of color in a range of industries with illustrated portraits. It includes festive portraits of Beyoncé, Oprah, Serena Williams and Michelle Obama to name a few.

Trap Bob is currently embarking on an art tour throughout December, which sees her unveiling murals and recent works for Pabst Blue Ribbon in her hometown of DC and during Art Basel in Miami. You can see her tour dates here.

We caught up with the illustrator via email, to learn more about the themes in her work and how her Ethiopian heritage informs her illustrations. Read it below and see more of Trap Bob's works underneath.

'Girls In Power' Image via Trap Bob's website.

Can you tell us more about yourself and how you started as an illustrator?

I'm a proud Habesha freelance artist from the DMV that started off oil painting about four years ago and moved from painting to teaching myself illustration. I really found my voice within that. I found that illustration allowed me to spread my message and ideas in the most captivating way, and it also allowed me to work quickly. In my head I see the world as illustrations so when I get an idea or feel inspired, I need to create right away - which can sometimes be hard with painting.

What are some common themes in your work?

I love to use hands in my work. It's my way of relating to my audience. I want everyone to see themselves in my art in one way or another. I'm also very into outer space and aliens. For me, it represents endless possibilities and allows me to have fun with my work. I believe we don't really know what's out there so I enjoy sharing my imagination through space scenes.

"Feeling Human"Image via Trap Bob's website.

You've done campaigns for brands, and worked with Girls Who Code, Elizabeth Warren and more. What's been your favorite series to work on thus far?

I truly love all the projects I work on, so it's hard to pick! I will say, working with Girls Who Code on the March For Sisterhood assets was an amazing experience. It was my first time creating all the assets for an entire campaign - from logos, social media assets to even designing the merchandise. It was extremely rewarding working with a cause that aligned so well with my values and what my artwork stands for.

"Check Yourself"Image via Trap Bob's website.

How did the collaboration with Pabst Blue Ribbon come about? Were you a fan of the beer before?

I entered the Art Can contest last year not really expecting to win. I've always loved how Pabst celebrates and incorporates art into their brand, so I really just wanted to get my name in front of them. I still can't believe I won. Working with them has been an amazing experience. Since the contest, I've done multiple projects with the brand and the opportunities just keeps getting better!

Would you say that your Ethiopian heritage informs your work? If yes, how so?

My work is heavily influenced by Ethiopian Christian art. I love the use of bold line-work and color. I have found it in my personal style without even thinking about it. Growing up in my culture and attending church, I would find myself getting lost in the artwork so this style feels very close to home for me. Plus, I think this style works great from an illustrative and story-telling standpoint.

Check out more of Trap Bob's work below.

Nipsey Hussle Image via Trap Bob's website.

"B-day Bob" Image via Trap Bob's website.

Image via Trap Bob's website.

"Stairway to Your Dreams'" at 29 RoomsIImage via Trap Bob's website.

Image via Trap Bob's website.

Tracee Ellis Ross Image via Trap Bob's website.

Image via Trap Bob's website.

Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.

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How CKay's 'Love Nwantiti' Became the World's Song

Nigerian singer and producer CKay talks to OkayAfrica about the rise of his international chart-topping single "Love Nwantiti," his genre-defying sound and the reasons behind this era of afrobeats dominance.