Graphic designer uses art for activism

Local4 News at 10
Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 9:38 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Hastings College senior, Mariama Sesay calls herself a graphic design activist.

“A designer that creates artwork to have a voice for marginalized groups and just amplify their voices so people can know more about what they’re going through and their struggles” Sesay said.

Mariama Sesay is majoring in graphic design and uses her love of creativity for good. She’s always had a love for art, but college is where she discovered her “why”.

“I would hope for design to open conversations about race, or climate change, or just anything going on in our society that makes change or has a positive impact on our lives” says Sesay.

Most of her creations are digital, which Sesay does intentionally, for more people to access her work online. One of her goals is to spark important conversations.

“A majority of the world has access to internet and if you have a digital form of activism, people can get access to it quickly, then everybody becomes a critic of the artwork and then they think about it, they look at it like “okay this is art, what is this about?” they want to know more and then they learn more.”

Russell Floersch, Visiting Instructor of Painting at Hastings College, has instructed classes with Sesay and helped her find her “why”. He spoke on the role art has played in societal change.

“Art or design with an activist spirit, exposes a need or an injustice and sometimes suggests a solution, but to be successful, it must ultimately lead to action. When it’s beautiful and profound, it can captivate an audience, hold their attention and shine a light on an issue. And, if it outrages and draws attention, it makes the status quo uncomfortable.”

As a Black designer, Mariama wants to use her artwork to speak up for Black people and people of color. She states the difficulty in finding designers that look like her.

“It was a struggle finding people that look like me that are designers. Finding inspiration was very difficult and I was like what can I do as a designer to make sure people see me, and then see other people as well?”

Sesay put her creativity to work and created an interactive digital poster titled “Where in the World are the Black Designers?” The poster has different shapes and colors that people can click, to take them to 16 other Black designers’ website.

Through her artwork, Sesay hopes to continue addressing social issues that specifically affect marginalized groups, and speak up for others who need it.

“That’s what’s so exciting about a student like Mariama. She’s bringing something beyond just the nuts and bolts of what graphic design can be implored for” Floersch said.

Mariama Sesay looks to continue her education on the graduate level once she graduates from Hastings College next year. Sesay’s other graphic designs can be found here.

Below is a QR Code that people can scan to take them directly to the digital interactive poster “Where in the World are the Black Designers?”

QR Code takes you to an interactive digital poster titled “Where in the World are the Black...
QR Code takes you to an interactive digital poster titled “Where in the World are the Black Designers?”(Sarah Bekele)

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