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 Luxolo Witvoet.

'Journey With Me' Is a Window Into the Ups and Downs of Traveling by Train In South Africa

In his new photo series, South African artist Luxolo Witvoet, speaks to everyday people in Cape Town about their experiences commuting via the city's fragile, yet vital train system.

Luxolo Witvoet is a 25-year-old multidisciplinary artist and photographer from Cape Town. In his latest series "Journey With Me," Witvoet set out to document the stories of South Africans commuting to and from work, school, and job hunting. While simply riding on the train might seem like a mundane, everyday act, the train holds special significance in South African history. "During apartheid, the train was the choice of transport that our forefathers & mothers used to travel long distances from one province or state to the next in search of work and a better tomorrow for their offspring—us," says Witvoet. His connection to the train is a personal one, directly linked to his family lineage. "My nineteen year old late grandmother travelled from her birthplace, Aliwal North to relocate to Cape Town using the train. While in Cape Town, she would eventually find work as a maid and she would meet her husband on the train en route to work," he adds.

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(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Chinonye Chukwu Will Direct the First Two Episodes of HBO Max's Upcoming 'Americanah' Series

Here's the latest news surrounding the highly-anticipated limited series, starring Lupita Nyong'o, Uzo Aduba and more.

Nigerian-American director Chinonye Chukwu is set to helm the first two episodes of the upcoming limited series Americanah, starring Lupita Nyong'o.

Chukwu is the award-winning filmmaker, behind the critically-acclaimed film Clemency, which won the 2019 Sundance Grand Jury Prize, making her the first Black woman to win the award.

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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