Originally from Marseille, Nadina Ali is a London based self-taught graphic artist and designer with a love for colour and bold typography. Her work is centred on creating empowering messages around social justice, representation, and mental health. A human rights activist, she aims to amplify the voices of under-represented people through her work.
We talk to Nadina about class, race, identity and the power of words.
You are a self-taught graphic artist from Marseille currently based in London. How has your heritage, identity and background influenced your creative practice?
As a Black Muslim Working-Class woman from an immigrant background, it took me a very long time to embrace a creative career fully. Not only this wasn’t a career path that was encouraged when I was growing up, I also very rarely saw people like me doing the type of creative work I was interested in which made it feel very inaccessible. As a result, it’s really important for me to produce work that reflects who I am and what I care about as much as possible to make it relatable and accessible but also to provide a different perspective of the world in an industry that is still very much white and male dominated.
With over a decade of experience in the creative industries, can you share more about the different facets of work you have explored?
I originally moved to the UK from Marseille to study Clothing Design at Manchester Metropolitan University and worked in fashion for many years after graduating. I worked in product development and quality control which was really technical work so I used hobbies such as sewing, screenprinting and baking as my creative outlets during that time. At the end of 2017, I decided to take a break from the fashion industry to explore alternative career paths and moved to London from Manchester to work as a baker. As I was doing shift work, that enabled me to make time for my burgeoning interest in lettering and typography and I slowly built up my design skills working on self-initiated projects and projects for friends which led me to focus on graphic design fully.
You use typography as a core part of your artistic practice, why did you choose to focus on graphic design particularly?
I developed a strong interest in graphic design when I was at University through doing research for design projects and from regularly going to exhibitions. What really attracted me to graphic design as a discipline is how strong and versatile a communication tool it is and also how accessible it is. Graphic design is everywhere, and we interact with it every day.
From your perspective, how strong are the power of words as opposed to images?
For me, words are more powerful than images because you can convey a much clearer message with words and there’s not as much room for interpretation. Words can be very impactful and touch people more profoundly.
You are passionate about social justice, sustainable and inclusive practices. Can art be used as a tool for social change?
100% yes! And I believe art should be used as a tool for social change whenever possible. Art allows us to be as thought provoking as we want, we might as well use it for a good purpose.
You create work that's colourful and uplifting but also tackles issues such as racism and injustice towards people from minority backgrounds. Can you tell us more about your concept behind this?
As someone who is at the intersection of so many different minority groups, it’s really difficult for me to remain indifferent towards issues such as racism and social injustice because they affect me everyday. Additionally, working in the creative industries where people like me are highly under represented means those issues are not tackled as often. For me it’s more a case of if I don’t talk about those issues, then who else will?
How have audiences reacted to your work?
I have been very fortunate to have my work being received positively Alhamdulillah. It’s been great to see the work I produce resonate with people as it confirmed that there are people out there who care about the issues I tackle in my work as much as I do.
How has your faith influenced your practice?
Being a Muslim artist means it’s really important for me to be a positive representation of the Muslim community not only through my work but also through my actions in wider society as a lot of people hold negative feelings and prejudice towards Muslims still.
What projects are you currently working on and have in the pipeline?
At the moment, I’m focusing on personal projects as the past few months I’ve been really busy working on client work and commissions and hardly had time for myself. I really want to release a series of Eid cards this year which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time so Inshallah this year is the year!
What does the future of Islamic art and culture look like to you?
The future of Islamic art and culture is multicultural, diverse and inclusive.
For more information check out https://www.nadinadidthis.com/
The views of the artists, authors and writers who contribute to Bayt Al Fann do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Bayt Al Fann, its owners, employees and affiliates.