Tell us who you are and what you do!
My name is Kokab Zohoori-Dossa and I am an illustrator from Kingston, Jamaica. I was born in Jamaica, but my mother is from Iran and my dad is from Benin. I grew up in Kingston, and being from a mixed background really helped me to see things differently. I’ve always loved art in its various forms and my parents always encouraged me to do what I love, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to go to art school and pursue it more seriously. Art was (and still is) something I use to express myself and relate to the environment around me. I struggled a lot with my identity and my self esteem. My art gave me a way to better understand myself and my country, but also to help people understand themselves.
My friends and family have always inspired me, whether it is through their own strength and creativity, or how they support me, or even introducing me to new things. Many of my friends are creative people and having that community motivates and inspires me to become better. There are also many musicians, artists, film-makers and writers who inspire me. I am a lover of anyone that tells a good story, no matter the medium.
I’ve always loved knowledge and learning new things, and being on this journey has taught me a lot, from business relations, to discovering more about myself as a person. I don’t know where this path will take me, but I’m eager and nervous to find out.
What is the inspiration for your work?
Much of my inspiration comes from the things I see around me everyday, whether it’s the people I observe, shows and movies I watch, books I read, comics, etc. Most of my art is Afro-centric, with a focus on black women and nerd culture within the black community. The subject matter varies greatly within my work. Sometimes it’s very fantasy-like and other times more modern. I think there’s so much beauty and intrigue in the world and there are so many things to explore, so why limit myself? I want black people to look at my work and feel inspired, but also to see themselves within it and know that it is more than okay to be yourself and like the things you like, regardless of what others think.
What would you say to prevent an upcoming artist from making the same mistakes you have made?
I wouldn’t say I’ve made many mistakes that I regret ever happening. Looking back, I think every decision I’ve made, bad or good, has helped me learn and grow as an artist. I would just say to surround yourself with people who inspire and encourage you. Never cater to what other people want you to be or to create. Go at your own pace and stop comparing yourself to other artists. Always…always, have a contract for business related work and commissions.
What obstacles have you faced as a Black Artist/Business Owner?
This is something that not many people might agree with, but I think one “obstacle” for me is within the black community itself. There’s a habit people have of lumping all black creatives into one category, which can be counterproductive. People start to expect a certain type of content from you, based on what other, more popular, black artists create. That puts undue pressure on younger artists coming up. Every black person is different and unique, and their art should be, too. Also, artists in the black community are still undervalued. Everyone “loves the art!”, but they don’t want to pay for it.