Squid Alley with Rado Kelini – The First Thing We Need is a Strong Community

January 13, 20197 min read

2018 birthed 2 killer trends on social media that brought some of Africa’s finest visual creatives into the limelight all of them inspired by the Drawing While Black trend from 2017. These were We Are Nigerian Creatives and United African Creatives. One of these trends, United African Creatives was widely adopted by Malagasy comic artist, Rado Kelini.

While he didn’t create it, he championed the trend so much that he’s who always comes to mind when I encounter the UnitedAfricanCreatives hashtag. Rado went as far as sharing his favourite artists’ works under the trend.

Rado’s illustrations, grungy, crayon-y, sketchy with cool pastel colours set you at ease and offer you a glimpse into life in Madagascar. This is reinforced in his comic, Handrava. which follows the life of Voanio and her friends in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar.

Read Handrava on Tapas.

We bagged a Squid Alley interview with Rado for your reading pleasure. As the first Squid Alley interview of 2019, I must say, this was such a fun, revealing and inspiring interview.


1. What are your go-to tools?

I’ve always used entry-level graphics tablets. I draw in Photoshop and only use one single brush whose name I cannot remember.

And when drawing on paper, I just use whichever pencil I can find. Good traditional material is wasted on me.

Basically, my tools are very boring.

2. What inspires you?

There’s an episode of Urasawa Naoki no Manben where they point out you don’t need to live an extraordinary life to create interesting stories because anything can be interesting if you learn to observe and listen. That is so true for me because nothing inspires me like the experiences of the people around me.

Right now, I draw so much inspiration from other people’s lives that I don’t think I could ever claim full ownership of the stories I make.

3. What major challenges do you face as an artist?

The hardest thing for me has always been the lack of support. I’m starting to come to terms with it but I don’t know when I’ll truly be able to let that one go.

The jealousy’s also been pretty troublesome. The era of the Internet makes it especially tough because everyone who is better than you is just one click away. But there’s also never been a better time to appreciate diverse and beautiful art from all over the world!

Lastly, there’s discipline. I wish I could learn to draw more. And I recently learned doing it until exhaustion is not the way (because then, you’re exhausted).

4. What’s is your favourite (and most fun) piece of work?

I’m relieved to see previous Squid Alley guests also had trouble with this question because it’s a tough one, haha.

I can’t place a favourite but drawing is the most fun when you’re in the zone. When somehow, every line is just right and you can transcribe whatever’s on my mind. But I want to learn to appreciate every new piece I finish, even on my bad days because it’s one more step towards getting better.

5. Who do you absolutely listen to when you work?

I listen to anything with Lesean Thomas and Yves Balak I can find.

 Music-wise, I listen to a bit of everything. One of my favourite African artists is Eddy Kenzo and I’m looking forward to a collaboration between him and a rising Malagasy star, Shyn.

6. What do you do for fun?

Lately, I’ve been playing a lot of Overwatch. The great thing about it is that as fun as the gameplay can get, eventually, the lack of story takes me out of it and I can get back to drawing.  

One thing I’ve also really been wanting to do is tabletop roleplay. I’ve yet to finish a campaign but I’m falling more and more in love with the concept of roleplaying in general.

7. You have 24hrs in the Squid Time Tunnel to change something about your past. What would it be and why?

Another tricky question, haha.

I’m growing increasingly aware that trying to have a normal job makes me miserable so if I could, I would teach myself to unashamedly pursue an artistic career and not dismiss opportunities out of fear or pride.

8. What’s your hope for African comics, games and animation in the next 3 years?

I think the first thing we need is a strong community.

The lack of support can be very damaging to young hopefuls and having peers to lift you up fosters growth in ways that are not possible on your own.

I don’t think we should be in a hurry to put out work that’d rival big-name studios. First, we need to find each other and see what we’re actually capable of together, then we can figure it out from there.

So hey! if you make stuff, hit me up and let’s try to support each other!

9. The Triomphant Bonus: Who are your top 3 African creatives across comics, games, animation, music, technology etc?

I love Malcom Wopé and Giovanni Anthony‘s work! I wish I could learn more about their current projects and their journey as artists.

 And I LOVE the afro-folk band ALALÁ! I hope I can work with them someday.

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