“I’m trying to open people’s minds and make them realized that beauty and also imperfection is okay.
“As a child I dreamed of being an illustrator, but at the time I didn’t have the confidence to pursue it so I decided to join a business school after I got older. I joined the school because I wanted to get out of France and see the world. Since then I’ve lived in the UK, Canada, Iceland, Denmark and even China for an extended period of time.
“Sometimes you have an idea for what a place is like in your head and when you actually move there it’s completely different from what you’ve expected.
“This time I wanted to be more careful, so I came to Japan on a tourist visa to see if I would like it, get a chance to connect with local people and have a more confident idea about living here long-term.
“Living in Japan is something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I first became interested in Japan because of my first name, Araki. When I was younger, people would often ask me why I have a Japanese name and it turns out I inherited the name from my grandmother from Guinea. Most people don’t know this but many names in Africa actually sound like Japanese names, for example my mom’s surname is Keita, similar to the Japanese first name for men.
“After all my travels, eventually I realized that in every country I’ve lived I was always going into Japanese places or trying to connect with Japanese people and culture. It seemed like I was drawn to Japan everywhere I went so I decided I should just live there instead of trying to find pieces of Japan in other places.
“Looking back, I didn’t used to think about age at all until I returned to France where age is an important issue for most. People are terrified of getting old and taking risks. Now that I’m 29, I began to think what do I want to do before I turn 30? So recently I switched my career from full-time Graphic Design to implement more and more Illustration into it. Eventually, I’d love to become a full-time freelance Illustrator.”
Inspiration through art
“At the time I was doing a project called OUM x YUKI and was interviewing people with multicultural identities from France to the US. I began to wonder could I actually continue the project in a place as homogenous as Japan? With all the positive feedback I was receiving in Japan for my designs I decided to just focus on my art instead. I mostly draw women from any culture and I’m really interested in multicultural diversity because I grew up in a Paris suburb where people from all over the world were gathered and not having any second thoughts about diversity was normal. Through my art I’m trying to open people’s eyes in a way and show them that beauty is anywhere, it doesn’t matter where people are from.
“From an artistic standpoint, I found myself attracted to Japanese aesthetics especially minimalism and I feel like Japan is my soul country because I felt a calling to come here. Compared to other countries I’ve found things are easier here like networking, daily life, and meeting new people. I just feel at peace here.
“I don’t have any regrets about the path I chose because every country I’ve been to has served as fuel for my inspiration for art but if I could offer one piece of advice I’d say to listen to your inner voice. Listen because eventually you’ll end up doing what you’ve always wanted to do all along.”
More of Araki’s artwork can be found here: http://www.arakikoman.com/