MErissa of Sankofa Creative Co.
Coloring books have come to be synonymous with healing these days. You see stories of them calming anxiety, easing pain, bringing about healing. Chance the Rapper even named his album Coloring Book, and we all know how blessed that piece was. Adding to that list of amazing coloring books is creator Merissa Hamilton of Sankofa Creative Co. Hamilton is the creator of AfroZen, a beautifully crafted coloring book featuring African symbols and lush imagery to sooth the soul. We sat down with her to talk healing, mental health, and why coloring books are so important. Check it out below!
Who is Merissa and when did you fall in love with your art?
Well I'm actually an interior & textile designer by trade, but I've always been an artist first & foremost. I've loved everything to do with art, design & creativity from a very young age. I remember constantly being told off at school for drawing/doodling all over my textbooks! I never actually stopped doing it though and I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to work in the art & design industry all my adult life.
We have come to realize the healing properties of coloring books? Describe the journey that lead you to creating your own adult coloring book?
I love colouring. I always have done. I used to go through book after book as a child & I've always found it very relaxing. As an adult, I really enjoy colouring & I found that there were plenty of books out there that represented nature, architecture, chinese & indian designs, but I really wanted to colour images that were more representative of myself - unfortunately I couldn't find any books that fit the bill. My style of artwork is based on zentangle & mandala-style designs & many of my friends had suggested that I turn them into colouring pages, so I decided to select some of my pieces and turn them into my own afrocentric colouring book. I had a lot of fun creating the AfroZen colouring book, as I had so many beautiful drawings to choose from.
What does mental health mean to you? What advice can you offer for protecting that emotional sanity?
Mental health is a big topic for me. As someone who has suffered from depression in the past, I fully appreciate how important it is to find your "happy space". Colouring is a way of channelling your energy into something positive, albeit for a short amount of time, but the end result lasts forever. Not only do you get to lose yourself in your art (and you don't need to be an accomplished artist to do so), but you also get to feel a sense of accomplishment as you admire your finished piece.
In your coloring book you feature African symbols and their definitions, what made you want to incorporated these symbols?
I wanted to use images that people of African heritage can relate to. My Adinkra Symbols book, in particular, focuses of west African Ghanaian symbols and gives the name and meaning of each symbol featured. It's a good way to connect with our heritage & traditions. I have people in Jamaica who have copies of the book and have recognised some of the symbols from everyday Jamaican life, therefore, making the Africa-Caribbean connection.
What other avenues do you wish to venture into to push your creative expression?
Well I have just released my 3rd colouring book, "I Can Be Anything" which is designed to encourage childrens’ artistic skills through coloring therapy, as well as inspire them to explore some of our great black role models. I hope to produce more children's books which will teach them about the beauty of their African heritage. I also design jewellery, books and gifts & I'm currently in the process of creating a range of wooden jewellery pieces based on my art style.