I’ve shared with you before the incredible resilience and creativity of Diarra Bousso, the Senegal-born, catastrophic-injury, amnesia-survivor and math teacher who founded fashion brand Diarrablu.
With all of that under her belt, it’s no surprise that she met the coronavirus pandemic quarantine and social unrest of 2020 with another creative project to keep her business and creativity headed in the right direction.
“I decided to spend my time at home drawing, dreaming and imagining magical destinations … while also representing people of color in every piece,” Bousso said.
Doomu Ndar art print
In addition to keeping her creativity flowing, she wanted to bring joy to customers while addressing the need for more inclusivity in the art world. It was also a way to process her own anxiety as a Black immigrant and a teacher facing a fall semester taught from a distance.
“I started painting more and released my first art collection on the website and was so touched with how much it resonated with our community,” Bousso said. “For me it was a way to express everything I was feeling; a desire to travel, a need for Black figures in art, a celebration of Black love and most importantly, another avenue to live vicariously.
Dallu in Cartagena
She created the collection entitled GENT, the Wolof word for dream, to celebrate “Black dreams, Black muses, Black travel and Black love” in magical places.
“Every piece represents a daydream in a special destination,” Bousso said. “The art world is even more exclusive than the fashion world and works rarely depict people of color or celebrate Black artists which is something I am hoping to address,” she said.
Bousso told me she has experienced racism in both Senegal and the United States.
“I went to a French private school in Senegal and it was the first time being hit with the fact that the color of my skin would give me a different experience in certain spaces. In the U.S. it’s come up a lot in the different spaces I have navigated as often time being the ‘only Black’ this or the ‘only Black’ that.”
Hidden Ocho Rio
And what makes it harder, she said, is constantly explaining her experiences of racism to non-Blacks. The Black Lives Matter movement, she hopes, has created not only more empathy for the Black experience, but also emphasized that Black people are exhausted by explaining and educating.
Bousso plans to continue creating art collections, and said she recently signed partnerships with two major brands to sell the pieces at scale. Stay tuned for that announcement in the fall.
“I am really excited that something that started out as a way to cope and express myself is now turning into something so big and meaningful and people are connecting with the pieces,” Bousso said. “When people tag us on Instagram with my artwork in their homes, it makes me so emotional because unlike the fashion, every piece of art, every stroke, line, color, came from my own hands; it’s a very deep connection!”