Week days for Law, weekends for Art – Yambawo Yaro

Yambawo Achana Yaro is the winner of the Fashion Illustration Competition organised by the Embassy of Spain in Abuja. The Lawyer, born  in Kano and raised in Lagos is from Waja, Gombe State and now lives in Abuja. In this interview she speaks about how her different environments and cultures have influenced her and sparked her interest in visual arts which she practices at weekends. 



You recently won the Spanish Fashion Illustration Competition. Could you tell us what theme you worked on?

The theme was to design a pattern related to any aspect of  the Spanish culture that could pass for and and be produced on African print.


What did you know about Spanish culture before the competition?

Apart from the famous  bullfighting  shows, the famous actors Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas and the flamenco dancers, I did not know anything else about the Spanish culture. 

How did you infuse this knowledge into your work? 

I wanted my design to have as much of Spain as we who are not in Spain see it and because the Spanish culture is so rich in many aspects, I picked elements of designs that showed this. Like the colour red, the fan, the bull and the carnation – the people love colors. Also, their passion for food and the various festivals they hold simply shows how they live today. Bullfighting is a very Spanish image. A controversial activity but made to look like a dance because of the flair of the matadors including the way flamenco dancers are dressed and the flirtatious movements of the dance. I considered all these after researching,  before I created the pattern. The passion of the Spanish people and the similarities we share with them, that love for living life to the fullest was my major inspiration for the design. 


Any particular reason you chose the colours and patterns that you used?

As a vivid colour, red represents passion which was why I chose it for the background and also gave it a vibrant pattern of continuity.  Other colours were from how visibly attractive Spain is from thepeople’s way of life, architecture to the landscape. 

Going forward,  what will you be doing with the design you have created? 

Well, I would most likely send some yards of fabric to family members and friends to show off my work. But I hope to use my design as a stepping stone into the world of fabric/pattern design, hone my skills and hopefully have many ‘asoebi bellas’ wearing my work and for it to reach international markets as well.

What other forms of art are you involved in?

I have dabbled into various forms of art such as watercolour painting when I was much younger and mixed media art with acrylic and seed beads as well. 

What kicked your interest in visual arts?

 When I was younger, Walt Disney cartoons stirred my interests so much that I would stay up late after everyone had gone to bed. I would then play any video to watch and draw disney characters.There were also a lot of National Geographic magazines as well as entertainment ones, that we had at home and books to draw from. So most nights I slept late. While in Adesoye College, the school’s curriculum had a good art programme with commendable artteachers (Mrs Onuh and Mr. Adigun) who taught us Nigerian Art and many other forms of art practised in other countries. My father has always been my main pillar of support all through this journey. By encouraging me, immediately  after  secondary school,  my father got across to a friend of his to ask the renowned artist, Dr. David Dale to tutor me. So three times in a week,  I was at his house in Surulere. I garnered a whole wealth of knowledge under his tutelage in the two months I spent going there. From beadwork, water colour painting to charcoal drawing ofplants that he would point out to me to draw because he has a botanical garden. Any spare time I had at that time was all about drawing and paint work. But with work and schooling, it took a back burner for many years until this competition came along.

What does winning this mean for you?

It means a lot to me. I was actually pushed by my sister to partake in it when she saw the details of the competition  posted online by The Fashion Academy here in Abuja. I was recovering from an accident and had some time on my hands to heal properly and creating this was part of the process. This was truly a surprise. So it was like the universe aligned to tell me to really invest in my artistic talent. 

How did you get into designing?

I think I have always been interested in designing, this is probably because in my younger years, my mother had a tailoring store in the compound. With the activities  going on in there, I was exposed to the process from designing  to the finished product of whatever the customers  are wearing. However, the only aspect of design I ever  ventured into was  a tailoring class I did right before going to law school and a few classes later on after national youth service. Since then, I  haven’t designed anything until the competition.

As a lawyer how do you manage both?

It has been tasking but if you really want something done,  you will always make time for it. So evenings when I come home from work and weekends are when I practice my art.

Does your profession influence your design?

It does in the sense of how I would want my designs to be experienced. But I am more influenced by things around me. Life generally, experiences from the little things like reading a text message  to the big issues like human trafficking. Everything is an influence.

Any plans on becoming a full time designer?

In time. This competiton has shown me that I can make wonderful designs so now it is for me to invest in my skills with more practice, professional training and more about the manufacturing industry.

Nature features quite prominently in your design. Could you tell us about using the patterns you worked with?

The motif was arranged in a network pattern, incorporated with irregular lines and curves in the background. Yes, nature does feature in my design because it  seems like the Spanish  have found a way to include nature in their lives. This is a trait that we seem to lack in Nigeria especially  when we have beautiful environments  that could bring in good revenue through tourism which make Spain a tourist  magnet because  of the great outdoors. I would also like to say that  our country is also working towards reaching that standard in the tourism sector but it would make far more impact if we started by taking care of our own immediate  environment, from recycling, throwing trash in the right places, promoting organic waste and so on.

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