A group of illustrators has united to produce a collection dedicated to celebrating Asian culture, in the wake of rising levels of anti-Asian racism around the world.
Some 19 illustrators have joined forces for the print project, which has been curated “in aid of #StopAsianHate”. It is a part of a wider initiative called Must Be Nice led by artist-led gift platform Paperboy.
“What they love about Asian culture”
Illustrators involved in the project were tasked with creating prints inspired by “what they love about Asian culture”, says project lead and Paperboy co-founder and creative director Matt Nguyen.
“I was very conscious that I wanted to avoid artwork being literal interpretations and not to feature ‘Stop Asian Hate’ slogans on them because I personally would not want that on my wall,” he says.
The diverse mix of posters on offer show Asian culture is not a monolith, with each addressing a different aspect of life. Some have chosen to focus on cultural aspects – illustrators Aga Giecko and Celine Ka Wing Lau have both developed pieces centring Asian pottery technqiues.
Others have focused on food. Illustrator Debbie Tea has created a poster celebrating Bao, while Kimberly Morris focused on soup and Subin Yang on Korean grocery stores. More still have looked into animals and lore – Amy Phung’s poster depicts a dragon Darcie Olley’s a jungle is complete with a tiger and owl.
The number of anti-Asian hate crimes is growing
The hashtag #StopAsianHate has become a prominent one in 2021, a year that has seen hate crimes against Asian people rise in number and severity. Many news outlets and advocacy organisation have reported incidents have risen because of the coronavirus and its origins in China.
Nguyen decided on the direction for the collection after experiencing anti-Asian racism himself during the coronavirus pandemic. It was also this experience that prompted him to launch Paperboy in 2020 in the first place.
“I founded Paperboy in Summer 2020 as a direct response to this in order to build a platform championing a diverse range of talent and to humanise and tell their stories after recognising a distinct lack of East and Southeast representation in the UK,” he says.
“Open to all kinds of audiences”
Illustration is an effective tool in combatting social issues like this, Nguyen says.
“[It renders] visual meaning and narrative to complex ideas and themes,” he says. “It allows each illustrator to express what they love about Asian culture in their own individual style and personality – and because it’s such an accessible form of art, it’s more open to all kinds of audiences.”
Following this project focused on stopping anti-Asian racism, the Must Be Nice programme will release further collections that will help raise awareness and benefit other social or environmental causes.
Profits will go to charity
The Must Be Nice #StopAsianHate collection of prints are available to buy via the Paperboy app, where pricing starts from £30.
All of the illustrators involved will be paid for their work, with the remaining profits being donated to non-profits working to address anti-Asian hate: Besea.n, End The Virus of Racism and Hackney Chinese Community Services.