How American Instagram Artist UkeLaylie creates other worlds online2 minute read

The quintessence of Houston, Texas based Laylie Frazer’s work, displayed on Instagram, is the celebration of women of colour, in all their magical beauty. Her illustrations have an otherworldly, celestial essence and we have been lucky enough to display some of her work alongside posts on Of Africa this Homeland Season.

I had the opportunity to talk to Laylie about the importance of representation in art, her influences, and homeland. The passion with which she spoke about her work impressed and inspired me to look past my own nerves as a first time interviewer.

“I create art that influences the younger me.”

Her artist name, ‘ukelaylie’ is a sort of pseudonym, born from her nickname Laylie. It felt important for her professional career, to garner a separate identity from her birth name.

She begins: “I create art that influences the younger me.” Growing up she saw very limited visuals of black women and as a half black/half Filipino woman, she didn’t see her own reflection. As an avid manga reader, she learned to draw by studying art that uplifted and celebrated only one part of her ethnicity. This is why her work celebrates and depict women of colour. Her aim is to illustrate the beauty of black features.

When asked about heritage and the reason she chooses women of colour as her subject, her answer is very simple: “I draw from what I know.” As she feels she can’t relate to issues surrounding black boys and men, it seems only natural for her to depict what she can relate to.

Her first love in art, is drawing. It was the first medium that she experimented in and she still begins every piece with a drawing. As a teacher herself now, she is very aware of how teachers can influence students and how early socialization in schools affects viewpoints on everything. In reflection she has found that, especially as a black person, with age comes a process of unlearning things from childhood.

Laylie seems to have successfully reconciled her role as an educator and socially conscious artist. The 21 year old primary school teacher mused about an instance where she tasked her students with self portraits. To her surprise, a particular student with curly hair drew themselves with straight hair. These are the moments, so crucial as an influencer, where Laylie sees that she can help mould young minds to celebrate their individuality. She remembers her own desires and learning experiences from her childhood and pays it forward.

So many things influence us, not least our background. “In a basic sense, homeland is where you are always pulling from. Homeland is also where you are literally from.” In the case of Laylie Frazer, it has intricately formed part of her identity, simply by grounding her work in her own reality.

 Photo and illustrations provided by Laylie Frazer. You can purchase her pieces at http://meatballshop.tictail.com

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<p>Tapiwa Makaka is the Social Media Assistant for ‘OF AFRICA’. Tapiwa was born in Zimbabwe and lives in Birmingham, England. Tapiwa enjoys writing poetry and performing in various underground clubs in London. A typical 20 something, she is pursuing her academic and career goals while managing the occasional existential crisis.</p>

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